Releford Leads Tide Into South Carolina

Trevor Releford is almost a lock to repeat as a first team All-Southeastern Conference Player. The feel good story of the year in SEC men's basketball would be if Releford is selected SEC Player of the Year. But that's not likely because Alabama is not a very good basketball team. And history says it will have a little worse record over the next week.

Alabama – because of Trevor Releford scoring 14 of Bama's 16 points in the final five minutes, including the winning three-pointer in the final second – ended a four-game losing streak earlier this week by beating Ole Miss, 67-64. But that was in Tuscaloosa.

Now Alabama has to go on the road, where the Crimson Tide record is atrocious. Coach Anthony Grant's Bama team has lost 11 consecutive road games, including eight straight in SEC competition.

Next up is South Carolina in Columbia. The Tide and Gamecocks will tip off at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) Saturday. The records indicate that Alabama might be able to pull off a road game win this weekend, but Bama has lost to other poor teams. While the Tide's record is a disappointing 10-14, including 4-7 in SEC games, South Carolina's is worse, 9-15 overall and 2-9 in the conference. The Gamecocks are last in the SEC, but just a step behind Alabama.

Releford, who had 26 points in the dramatic win over Ole Miss Tuesday, has done all that he could do to make the record better. He has four 20-point games in the Tide's last six contests and has nine 20-point games this season. He is leading the Tide with an 18.7 points per game average for the year, which ranks seventh in the conference. Releford has connected on 140 of 279 shots (50.2 per cent), including 53-135 on three-point attempts (39.3 per cent).

And it's not just the numbers. With so many Tiders unwilling to shoot and/or unable to score, Releford has had to take it on himself and has dazzled with brilliant drives and critical outside shooting.

One reason for Alabama's poor road record is it commits too many fouls. In Alabama's five road games against SEC competition, it has given up 147 free throws, an average of 29.4 free throw attempts per game. As a result, the Tide is getting outscored from the foul line in road conference games by 6.6 points per game (21.6-15.0 per game).

South Carolina comes into Saturday's game ranked second in the SEC in three-point shooting at 36.9 percent for the season. A possible good sign for Bama, however: Alabama ranks fourth in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot just 30.8 percent from beyond the arc on the year.

Alabama and South Carolina will meet for the 38th time overall, with the Crimson Tide owning a 24-13 edge in the series history. Alabama and South Carolina played only once last season, as the Tide captured a 68-58 victory in Coleman Coliseum on Feb. 16, 2013, and this will be the only regular season meeting between the two this year.

Alabama is 5-9 all-time at South Carolina, but has lost six of its last eight in Columbia.

Alabama will close out its longest road stretch of the season (four away games in a five-game stretch) when it travels to take on Texas A&M on Thursday night at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN2.

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