Tide faces tough task versus Oregon

Alabama men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried knows he's facing a team with size and speed when the Crimson Tide faces Oregon on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

"They've got two sequoia trees down there who are about 9 feet tall, 450 pounds," Gottfried said sarcastically. Then came the realization that they aren't just big-they're fast.

"Chattanooga (Alabama's December 16th opponent) really pushed the ball up the floor, and I told our guys that as good as Chattanooga runs it, Oregon is about ten times better," Gottfried said. "They really, really run. They come out of there full steam ahead, so we've got to work a little bit on our transition defense, make sure we don't give up easy baskets."

Don't think Gottfried's players haven't been paying attention, either. The game against Oregon will give Alabama (5-2), if it wins, a chance to boost its RPI rating, something that will be a key late in the season if Alabama is on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament selection.

The flu bug could put the onus on Demetrius Smith, as he subs for an ill Antoine Pettway at the point guard position. (AllSport photo)

"(They have the) player of the year in the Pac 10, predicted to win the Pac 10," guard Earnest Shelton said after Alabama's 76-72 win over Chattanooga. "It's big for us. We're going to Vegas, but we've just got to come out and play ball."

That player is Luke Jackson, a 6-foot-7 senior small forward who is averaging 22.6 points per game in the Ducks' five games. Oregon has come up on the wrong end of the score only once this season, and that was a game against No. 5 Kansas. Jackson also leads the Ducks with seven rebounds per game.

Two giants start at forward and center for the Ducks. Standing at 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, Ian Crosswhite is the Ducks' second-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game. There are two more giants on the roster who have started games. One is Mitch Platt, a 6-10, 270-pound freshman, and the other is Matt Short, a 7-foot, 235-pound sophomore.

The size advantage is sure to cause fits for the Tide, as forwards Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson weigh 230 and 210 pounds, respectively.

"But its a great opportunity for our guys," Gottfried said. "It's a great game. It's nationally televised. It's in Las Vegas. I think Oregon is picked one or two in the Pac-10. Luke Jackson is a preseason pick for Player of the Year in the Pac-10. So it's a great, great opportunity for us, and I know our guys are going to be excited about having the chance to play in it."

The two starting guards for Oregon are Aaron Brooks and Andre Joseph, both of whom scored in double figures in the Ducks' recent win over Santa Clara. Brooks, a freshman, scored a career-high 13 while Joseph scored 15. The Ducks use the bench effectively, as nine players average double-digit minutes.

The Tide is coming off a four-point victory over Chattanooga. Sophomore forward Kennedy Winston led the Tide with 20 points, including a key tip-in late to put the Tide ahead. Gottfried conceded that while his team isn't great, he said it's a team that is a pleasure to coach.

Guard Earnest Shelton has been the Tide's most dependable scorer.

"As I've said often before, we're not a very good team at this point," Gottfried said. "But I like what I see in this team. They do everything you ask them to do. When they come together and huddle up and they're in the time out, they're zeroed in and they are trying to find a way to win.

"We hurt ourselves at times with some foul shooting and some turnovers and mistakes, but when a team plays with that kind of attitude, as a coach, that's all you can ask of them. They've just got to keep getting better."

Shelton continues to shoot the ball well, scoring 19 points in the win over Chattanooga. He leads the team in scoring with 17.1 points per game. Winston is second with a 14.9 point-per-game clip, while sophomore forward Chuck Davis is third, scoring 10.7 points per game.

Gottfried told TV reporters on Thursday that point guard Antoine Pettway might be limited because of the flu. If Pettway were unable to go, Demetrius Smith would likely start in his place.

Tip-off for the game is set for 9:00 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on ESPN2 and can be heard via the radio waves on the Crimson Tide Sports Network.


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