Tide tips off SEC season

If Alabama thought Xavier's Anthony Myles was good, they haven't seen anything yet. The senior forward for Xavier scored 19 points, a career high. That's nothing compared to what LSU center Jaime Lloreda puts up every night.

And he's got a pretty good front-court mate as well. Lloreda leads the SEC in scoring with 19.1 points per game and rebounding with 11.9 per game. The Panama native stands 6-9 and weighs 245 pounds. He's joined up front by Brandon Bass, a 6-8, 240-pound highly-touted freshman who has lived up to his billing, averaging 13.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

"They're great," guard Earnest Shelton said. "They're real good inside with Lloreda and Bass. As a team, we'll have our hands full. But they're beatable, and as a team we feel like we can go down there and get the job done."

"Myles looked like Karl Malone," coach Mark Gottfried added. "We've got to help in the post. Myles had as good of a game as an inside player as anyone has had against us. Hopefully we'll progressively get better."

On paper, it appears to be a mismatch, as Alabama counters with lighter and less experienced forwards Chuck Davis and Jemareo Davidson. But games aren't played on paper, and Gottfried believes his young front-court duo is ready for the challenge.

"Of our young guys, I don't believe that we have a group that will back down," Gottfried said. "I think maybe in the second half of the Xavier game they conceded a little bit but I don't anticipate that again."

Chuck Davis looks to score under the basket. The pressure will be on Bama's sophomore power forward this Saturday. (AP photo)

The 68-47 loss at Xavier was the Tide's lowest point of the season to date, and in turn Gottfried made practice more physical this week. From the looks of it and based on past games, this season's Tide-Tigers match-up will be a physical one.

"That's something we need to improve on if we want to win in the SEC," Gottfried said. "We've been a lot more physical and a lot more aggressive. We went Monday and Tuesday and we had the opportunity to be off. We'll have a good week. We've spent a lot of time on ourselves to be real honest, before we move on to anybody else."

LSU has a leg up in SEC play, pulling off a 66-65 win over Arkansas on the road. Bass had 21 points to lead LSU.

LSU also starts another freshman, 6-9, 215-pound Regis Koundjia and rounds out its top recruiting class with guard Tack Minor and forwards Ross Neltner and Darnell Lazare coming off the bench. Koundjia averages 4.7 points per game.

The back-court features point guard Xavier Whipple who leads the team with 3.6 assists per game. Antonio Hudson, a 6-2 wing, starts at the other guard and is averaging 11 points per game. The bench is sparked by Darrel Mitchell, a 5-11 leaper, and Minor.

Alabama finished the non-conference schedule with an 8-3 record, including wins over Oregon and Wisconsin. LSU stands at 10-1, but as Gottfried will tell you, the SEC is a new season.

"I think for a team that's not real good like we are, we've got some good wins," Gottfried said. "We're sitting here starting conference play, our RPI and strength of schedule is high. Now starts the second and most important phase of the season. We've got to do well in conference. How well we can do with our young bunch, we'll find out. I just think they're excited abou getting it started."

Once again, Gottfried was asked about the road woes his teams have had over the years. His response was similar to years past. Last year's team went 1-7 on the road in the SEC, with only a win over Tennessee.

"We've got to win on the road," Gottfried said. "We've got to handle the situation better. Our guys know that. They don't leave their head in the sand."

The game will tip off at 2 p.m. and will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot.

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