Grant Wants Tide To Answer Bell

It is tempting to look at the possible result. If Alabama defeats visiting Georgia Saturday and Vanderbilt defeats Florida in Nashville, Alabama and Florida will be co-champions of the Southeastern Conference. That the Gators thrashed the Crimson Tide head-to-head has no bearing.

When the year started, Alabama would have seemed to have been a candidate to finish near the bottom of the SEC, not potentially its champion. But that is not what is on the mind of Alabama Coach Anthony Grant.

The prevailing philosophy in Alabama's athletics department these days--articulated particularly by Grant and by Football Coach Nick Saban--is the process. Certainly it is about winning, but the plan is for players to play their best, in which case victories can be expected.

Grant said that Alabama has not played well recently. Bama is coming off back-to-back SEC road losses, at Ole Miss and at Florida, and did not play well in its last home game, a 51-49 win over Auburn. He said he is anxious to see if the Tide "can answer the bell."

Alabama and Georgia will play in Coleman Coliseum Saturday in the final regular season game of the year. Tipoff is at 12:30 p.m. CST with television coverage on the SEC network. The game is sold out

Alabama comes in with a 19-10 mark, 11-4 in the Southeastern Conference, having already wrapped up the Western Division title. The Crimson Tide is still alive for a share of the overall regular season SEC title with a win over Georgia and a loss by SEC-leading Florida at Vanderbilt on Saturday.  

The matchup versus the Bulldogs marks the fourth consecutive sellout of Coleman Coliseum, where the Tide is 15-0 this season, including 16 in a row dating back to last year. The sellout marks the fifth time this year Alabama has brought Coleman Coliseum to capacity. Saturday's game will also be ‘Senior Day' for the Tide as they recognize the team's four seniors in Charvez Davis, Senario Hillman, Chris Hines and Justin Luquire.  

Asked if he planned to start his seniors, Grant said, "That will be a game day decision." With so much on the line, it is highly unlikely walk-on Justin Luquire would start. For instance, when Bama played at Florida Tuesday, Senior Day for the Gators in a critical SEC game, Florida started only its scholarshipped seniors.

Hillman is a four-year senior. Davis and Hines are junior college transfers who are regular starters. Hillman has started numerous games in his Crimson Tide career, most of them as a sophomore and junior, but has been one of three men off the bench for the Tide this year.

Grant paid tribute to fan support for Alabama this year. "I would say the atmosphere here has exceeded my expectations," he said. "I think it's been tremendous and a great lift for our basketball team in terms of the environment our fans and our student body has created. With our final game coming up this Saturday at 12:30 we need all our fans here, we need them early and we need them loud. It has been a tremendous boost for us."

  Alabama is 3-2 versus the SEC East this year, having beaten Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina. The Crimson Tide comes into Saturday's tilt allowing just 51.7 points per game at Coleman Coliseum, best in the nation. Overall, Alabama ranks seventh in the nation, allowing 58.9 points per game.  

On the offensive side, junior forward JaMychal Green leads the Tide with 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Tony Mitchell averages 16.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while freshman guard Trevor Releford is averaging 11.7 points per game.

  For Georgia, Trey Thompkins leads the team in scoring and rebounds, averaging 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. There has been some question about Thompkins, who has a leg injury, being 100 per cent for this game. Travis Leslie is close behind at 14.2 points and 7.1 rebounds while Gerald Robinson is third on the team, averaging 12.6 points per game.  

"They are very talented," Grant said. "Trey Thompkins was a preseason player of the year. He's had an outstanding season. Travis Leslie is another guy who was a preseason first-team guy who has had an outstanding season. Gerald Robinson, Dustin Ware and Jeremy Price, their frontcourt has been outstanding this season. They've had a great year, suffered a lot of close losses and been able to play with everyone on their schedule. I think they've had an outstanding season."

  The Crimson Tide will play next in the SEC Tournament in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta as the No. 1 seed in the Western Division. The Tide's tournament play will tip off at noon CST on Friday, March 11 against the winner of the Thursday game between the No. 5 seed in the West and No. 4 seed in the East.

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