Another tough road game for Bama

For a team struggling with its offense, a trip to South Carolina won't be what the doctor ordered. <br><br>A team picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC East, the Gamecocks have jumped out to a 19-3 start, and are tied for first in the SEC East at 5-2.

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, whose Crimson Tide team will travel to Columbia tonight for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff, says it's the defense that makes the Gamecocks effective.

"Their defense is phenomenal," Gottfried said. "They've done a great job every night this year defensively, and we've got to go over there and play well."

South Carolina probably won't boast any All-SEC superstars, but are led under coach Dave Odom by a pesky group of players who love to trap and be aggressive.

"They do a great job defensively," Gottfried said. "They have a lot of like-size, similar size players. They are real aggressive. They're switching a lot of things defensively, trapping you full court, trapping you half court, just kind of creating a lot of havoc and chaos. Their defense has really been the story for them all year long.

"You look at their shooting percentages, they're not great; but their defense has been spectacular every night. When you play against them, you've got to be able to handle a basketball, have some poise against their pressure if not allow yourself to get hurried up where you're creating some turnovers and you've got to settle down and play."

For the Crimson Tide offensively, it must find a way to produce. Second-leading scorer Earnest Shelton is likely still out with a knee injury, although he provided five ineffective minutes in the 60-54 loss to LSU, and leading scorer Kennedy Winston has been limited in practice with a knee injury of his own.

Mark Gottfried and his mostly inexperienced team are still struggling to find a winning formula on the road. (AllSport photo)

"Neither Kennedy nor Earnest has really practiced with us in about a week and a half to two weeks, and that's difficult to do," Gottfried said. "Kennedy is limited on how many days a week he can go without really aggravating and having his knee swell up. Hopefully today Earnest will participate in some parts of our practice. I don't think he'll go from start to finish but hopefully he can get in there and manage a little bit and see how he does today."

Winston has averaged 21 points per game over the last three games, including 25 in a loss to Florida. The Tide will need some added production from young forwards Chuck Davis, Evan Brock, and Jermareo Davidson, who have been saddled with either minor injuries, inconsistency, or foul trouble.

"They're young, they're good players," Gottfried said. "Really Chuck and Evan are playing their freshman years in a sense. For all intensive purposes, last year was a redshirt year for them. With all those guys, you have to get them in a position to score a little bit better. Some of it is confidence and some is knowing how to score at this level. Sometimes you can't speed up the maturity process.

"I go back to when (Erwin) Dudley, (Kenny) Walker, and (Rod) Grizzard were freshmen. Many times, they were just not good enough yet and had to get better."

South Carolina is paced in the offensive end by forward Carlos Powell, a 6-foot-7 junior who averages 13.9 points per game, leading the Gamecocks. Six-foot-three guard Josh Gonner, a junior college transfer, is second on the team at 11.5 points per game.

Gonner is joined in the backcourt by junior Mike Boynton, a solid three-point shooter who averages 9.1 points per game. Powell is joined in the frontcourt by 6-foot-8 senior Kerbrell Brown (8.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and 6-foot-6 sophomore Tarence Kinsey (9.6 ppg).

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