Tide-Tiger showdown set for Saturday

If you don't have a ticket to Saturday's Alabama-Auburn men's hoops match-up in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, you'd better watch it on television.

That's because the "Iron Bowl of Basketball" is a sellout, the Crimson Tide's first home sellout of the season. The Tide (9-4, 1-1 SEC) and Tigers (10-4, 1-2 SEC) will tip off at 6 p.m. in a game that will be televised by Fox SportsSouth. The Tigers are coming off an overtime loss to South Carolina at home.

"They have pretty good inside players," Alabama forward Chuck Davis said. "They're a pretty good team. It really doesn't help us that they lost because teams always come back and play harder after a loss."

Those "pretty good inside players" are forwards Brandon Robinson and Marco Killingsworth and center Kyle Davis. The inside game is obviously the Tigers' strength

"To me we just played a great front line in LSU, and Auburn's is just as good as anybody in the conference," Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "For our bunch, it's a heck of a challenge. They're going to be a big test for us."

Killingsworth (6-7, 235), the Tigers' leading scorer, averages 14.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Robinson (6-8, 215), is the Tigers' second leading scorer at 13.4 points per game, and second leading rebounder with 7.8 rebounds per game. Davis, the 6-10 senior center, leads the team with 8 rebounds per game and is scoring 9 points per game.

Alabama true freshman center Jermareo Davidson averages 25.3 minutes per game, 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds. (AP photo)

Gottfried thinks that the fact Auburn lost won't matter in their intensity level. Auburn lost its conference opener at Vanderbilt then destroyed a weak Ole Miss team at home. Alabama lost its opener at LSU then defeated Arkansas, 81-65, on Wednesday.

"I think that stuff doesn't matter," Gottfried said. "When the ball goes in the air at 6:00 on Saturday night, both teams will go at it pretty hard. I know I'll be excited and our players will be excited."

Auburn's struggles have come on the perimeter, as the Tigers shot only 20 percent from behind the arc in the loss to South Carolina. The team shot only 25 percent overall. Point guard Lewis Monroe has missed much of the season with a broken foot, but has returned. Monroe struggled against the Gamecocks, missing all seven of his shots from the floor.

Auburn will likely start Ian Young (8.6 points per game) and Nathan Watson (9.6 points per game) in the backcourt.

"We know a tough battle is in store," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "We have to come back from a tough loss against a very good South Carolina team. We are going to have to change that emotion around. On the other hand, Alabama is probably feeling better about themselves after their win.

"It is a quick turnaround game. The first thing you have to sort out is the mentality of the game in getting over a loss and putting it behind us."

For the Tide, winning at home will be key as the team will head on the road for back-to-back contests at Georgia and Ole Miss following the game. Traditionally, the Tide has not been a good road team, so holding serve at home is essential.

"You've got to protect the home court," point guard Antoine Pettway said. "If we beat Auburn, it'd be way better than going 1-2. We've got to execute, win, then go win on the road."

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