Healthy Gators challenge unhealthy Tide

His leading scorer is out indefinitely, and two other starters are ailing. Nope, it's not a good time to be Alabama men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried as he prepares his team to face Florida.

Leading scorer Earnest Shelton definitely won't play, second-leading scorer Kennedy Winston woke up Monday with his injured knee swollen "like a grapefruit."

Winston has played with a nagging knee injury all season long, although he scored 15 points at Ole Miss playing a season-high 39 minutes. Center Jermareo Davidson should play after playing only six minutes at Ole Miss before leaving with a slight knee injury, but he isn't 100 percent.

Regardless, the Crimson Tide (11-5, 3-2 SEC) will have play much better against No. 20 Florida (10-4, 3-2) than it did against Ole Miss if it wants to take home a victory.

"Florida is a very good basketball team, very talented, and very well coached," Gottfried said. "We've obviously got to play a great game to have a chance to upset them. We're a little banged up right now and that's not where you want to be heading in to a game like this, but we've got to find ways to overcome that and play against what I think is one of the best teams in the country."

The Gators have had no such luck with injuries and start four sophomores and one junior. The guy who Gottfried has his eye on the most is point guard Anthony Roberson, a 6-1 guard who averages over 16 points per game.

Demetrius Smith could get the start. (AllSport photo)

"We've seen a lot of good point guards, the best might be Devin Harris of Wisconsin," Gottfried said. "I think he's just as good or better."

The rest of the Gators' lineup is tall and athletic, but the Gators get most of their offense from defensive pressure by the wing players. Along with Roberson, the group includes Matt Walsh, a 6-6 shooting guard/small forward who averages 13.9 points per game and 6-9 sophomore small forward Christian Drejer, who averages 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

"We're going to see a lot of full court pressure," Gottfried said. "(They) really make your guards make plays, and when we're not real deep at guard to begin with that just makes it a little bit harder. Florida does a great job in the open court. You're going to see some pressure for forty minutes, and our guards need to do a much better job than we did in Oxford."

The other Florida starters include one of the SEC's best forwards in 6-9 junior David Lee, who has skills inside and out. Lee averages 15.1 points per game and is the Gators' second-leading scorer and leading rebounder at 7.4 rebounds per game. Adrian Moss, a 6-9 redshirt sophomore, starts at center but senior Bonell Colas will also see plenty of action at the position.

Emmett Thomas started in place of Shelton against Ole Miss, but had a bad night, shooting 1-of-5 with only three points. Gottfried didn't rule out senior Demetrius Smith starting over Thomas at the position. Smith scored 12 points at Ole Miss.

Gottfried also commented that while the bench is getting thinner, it doesn't matter as the starters need to perform better. Point guard Antoine Pettway scored a career-high 25 and Winston scored 15, but the other three starters combined to score six points.

"What it all comes down to is that your key players have to play well," Gottfried said. "It doesn't matter who your eighth or ninth man on the bench is, your starters have to play well."

The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.


BamaMag Top Stories