Alabama is coming off a 56-38 win over Tennessee, its first SEC road win since Feb. 12, 2013, but Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant and his Bama squad are focused on the future, not the past. Even though the win over the Vols had to be satisfying, Alabama is looking ahead to meeting South Carolina in Columbia at 8 p.m. CST (9 p.m. eastern time) Tuesday, a game that will be televised on ESPNU.
The way the SEC schedule is structured (or not structured), Alabama will be making a second consecutive trip to Columbia. Last year Bama lost a heart-breaker to the Gamecocks, 67-66 as a Trevor Releford (he had 27 points, 25 of them in the second half) three-point shot to win the game was off the mark. Alabama had led by four points with three minutes to play.
“It was a tough loss,” was all Grant had to say about last year. “They are a different team and we are a different team.”
Certainly Alabama is a different team. Last year’s squad was 0-11 on the road, 0-15 counting neutral site games. This year’s team has won a road game and won a game at a neutral site.
This year Bama is 12-3 overall and one of four teams that is 2-0 in SEC games after the first week of conference play, beating Tennessee and also handling Texas A&M in Coleman Coliseum (65-44). South Carolina had a tough opening week, losing at home to Florida (68-72) and on the road at Ole Miss (49-65). The Gamecocks are 9-5 overall.
One game in particular has probably caught the attention of Grant, who said he was impressed with South Carolina in watching tape of some of their non-conference games. South Carolina defeated ninth-ranked Iowa State, 64-60, in Brooklyn.
Alabama also played Iowa State at a neutral site and lost by a 74-84 margin.
Bama and the Gamecocks are fairly close in scoring. South Carolina averages 71.4 points per game and allows 59.6 ppg for a scoring margin of 11.9 and the Tide averages 70.5 ppg, gives up 61.7, a margin of 8.9. The Gamecocks enjoy a healthy advantage in rebounding, while Bama has a better turnover margin.
Alabama is led by Levi Randolph, who averages 15.3 points per game, Ricky Tarrant at 13.2 ppg, and Rodney Cooper at 10.9. Cooper is coming off a 17-point, 5-assist, 5-rebound game in the road win at Tennessee. South Carolina is led by Duane Notice at 12.4 ppg, Sindarius Thornwell 10.9, and Tyrone Johnson 10.4.
Alabama has a 24-14 lead in the series, but Bama is only 5-10 when playing in Columbia. Bama’s last win at South Carolina was a 79-70 decision in 2010. Each of the last 10 games has been decided by 10 or fewer points, five of them coming down to the last possession. Grant is 5-2 against the Gamecocks, 1-2 in Columbia.
Grant and South Carolina Coach Frank Martin were teammates at Miami Senior High School.
Bama and the Gamecocks will meet again this year on Feb. 24 in Tuscaloosa.