Governors challenge Tide

Another mid-major team will visit Coleman Coliseum on Saturday--but this isn't your average mid-major school. And Alabama coach Mark Gottfried knows it.

Austin Peay State (2-2), coached by Dave Loos, is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. In fact, the NCAA Tournament team of a year ago returns five starters and is favored to win the conference.

They've got all their players back from a conference championship team," Gottfried said. "It'll be an interesting match-up of their seniors versus our inexperienced players. They are by far the best team in their conference. We'll have our hands full. They were a winning team with all their players back from last year. It'll be a big challenge for us."

The Governors come in with losses to Memphis (74-60) and Belmont (68-65). The wins were a season-opening win over Knoxville College (90-35) and Evansville (62-54). The Crimson Tide (3-2) is coming off a big win over Charlotte, the team that knocked off defending champion Syracuse on its home floor.

"Our guys need to understand that we're playing a good team that I think could win their league and be in the NCAA Tournament," Gottfried said.

Gottfried is comparing this game to a game against Samford in his second year at Alabama, where he started a lineup of four freshmen and one junior against a squad of four seniors and one junior. Samford, behind 26 points from Reed Rawlings, proceeded to defeat the Tide in Coleman Coliseum.

"Austin Peay is the same way," Gottfried said. "They're a Tournament team. All five of their starters are back. They're conference champions. Their staff can flat-out coach."

Austin Peay is led by guard Anthony Davis (6-2, 206), the only junior in a starting lineup of four seniors. Davis scored 26 points in a win over Evansville, and is averaging 15.6 points per game.

Guard Earnest Shelton leads the Tide in scoring. (AP photo)

Forward Adrian Herring (6-6, 210) averages 13.7 points per game and has pulled down 6 rebounds per game. Center Josh Lewis (6-8, 220) leads the team in rebounding with 8.8 per game, and is averaging 11 points per game.

The other starters are forward Rhet Wierzba (6-5, 195), who averages 4.3 points per game, and guard Corey Gipson (6-1, 200), who averages 7 points per game. The experienced squad has earned the respect of Gottfried.

"You've got a veteran squad. They're not going to walk in here intimidated at all. They've been in the tournament. They've won their conference tournament. They won their league. They've cut down nets. They'll be here to play. We've got to be ready for a challenge."

Alabama is led by guard Earnest Shelton, averaging 15.6 points per game. Shelton scored 22 points in the victory over Charlotte. Three other starters are averaging double digits in scoring for the Tide, including forwards Kennedy Winston (13.8 ppg, 6 rpg) and Chuck Davis (11 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Point guard Antoine Pettway is averaging 10 points per game.

The game between Alabama and Austin Peay will tip off at 4 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised by College Sports Southeast. A limited number of mini-basketballs will be given to the first Tide fans to come through the gates.

After Saturday's game, next up for Alabama will be a game against the touring team Athletes in Action the following Saturday, December 13. That contest will also take place at Coleman Coliseum, with tip-off scheduled for 6 pm. WVUA will provide local television coverage.

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