Alabama Basketball On The Road Again

Willie Nelson might change his tune if he was playing in the Southeastern Conference. The venerable country and western singing star "Just can't wait to get on the road again." Not so for SEC basketball coaches.

For as long as the game has been played, basketball more than any other sport has a tremendous home court advantage. Alabama is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, two of them away from Tuscaloosa, and now the Crimson Tide has to hit the road again. Bama will be at South Carolina for a game that tips off at 7 p.m. CST (8 eastern) with television coverage on the SEC Network.

Alabama has played three of its first five Southeastern Conference games on the road and has a 2-3 conference record to show for it. Bama's fourth road game in league play is against a South Carolina team that is looking for its first win. The Gamecocks are 0-4 in the SEC and 8-10 overall. Alabama has a 13-6 overall record.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant, who could generously be described as "succinct," said, "I've very impressed with our league. Anytime you go on the road in this league, you can always expect a tough game."

Grant said the challenge against South Carolina is to defend the three-point shot as the Gamecocks shoot 34 per cent on treys.

"They play a lot of guys," Grant said. "They're a team that is very dangerous from the three-point line. They've done a really good job of mixing up their defense to create turnovers and transition opportunities. Also, they're a great rebounding team. It's the same type of preparation that goes into every game so we have the best chance to win."

Alabama may have a little easier time of this road game than the last. On Saturday the Tide fell at Kentucky, less than 48 hours after having played against Vanderbilt. Bama did well against the Wildcats, who are now ranked first in the nation, taking the game to the wire before falling by 77-71.

Grant said Alabama handled the short turn-around for Kentucky well. "I think our guys did a pretty good job of taking in the scouting report in a short amount of time," he said. "They tried to execute the things we told them they needed to do. There were some breakdowns on both sides of the ball, but they did a great job of executing what we asked them to do for the most part."

He said, "I think against Kentucky we did a better of job of being aggressive and attacking as opposed to against Vanderbilt. In the game, I think we had 14 turnovers. Some were our own doing. For the most part we got good shots coming down the floor and need to care of the basketball with the possessions we do have. That's the direction our team needs to go in."

Freshman guard Trevor Lacey has moved into the starting lineup and is getting an early education on life on the road in the SEC. "Every team is tough and has the home crowd behind them," he said. "A lot of teams feed off that home crowd. It brings more engergy and the talent is there, so with that extra energy and the crowd, it's tough.

"We knew this three-game stretch was going to be tough and feel like we could have won all of them. We're not going to change anything we've been doing, but we feel like if we play the way we did the last game, we can really make a turnaround. It's disappointing losing, but no one is getting down or pointing fingers at each other. We're just coming together as a team and getting ready for the next one."

Alabama has a 22-12 advantage in the series with the Gamecocks and has won three straight in the series. In the last meeting in Columbia, Bama rallied from a 14-point deficit for a 79-70 win.

Alabama is scoring 66.6 points per game and holding opponents to 57.5 points per game (12th best in the nation). South Carolina scores 66.3 per game, allows 63.1.

In recent games, the Tide lineup has had 6-8, 240-pound senior JaMychal Green (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds) at low post, 6-6, 220-pound junior Tony Mitchell (13.3 points, 7.2 rebounds) at forward, 6-0 soph Trevor Releford (13.8 points, 3.1 assists) at point guard, and freshmen wing players 6-5 Levi Randolph (6.2 points. 3.7 rebounds) and 6-3 Trevor Lacey (7.7 points, 3.6 rebounds).

Alabama returns to Coleman Coliseum Saturday, hosting Arkansas at 12:30 p.m. CST.

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