Bama hopes to end skid on road

The Alabama basketball team will try to snap a four-game losing streak tonight. The problem lies in the fact that the Crimson Tide (11-8, 3-5 SEC) must do so in Rupp Arena, home to the No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats and one of the most storied arenas of all-time.

The Wildcats (16-3, 6-2 SEC) enter the game off the heels of a one-point win over South Carolina on Saturday. Missing from that game was leading scorer Gerald Fitch, a senior guard who is scoring 15.8 points per game. Fitch is questionable for the game tonight with sprained fingers.

"We'll preparing that he will play," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "I don't know that changes a whole lot of preparation for what we're going to do, but we'll just have to wait and see with that."

If Fitch doesn't play, the Wildcats will start senior Antwain Barbour, a 6-5 guard who had the winning basket against South Carolina. But Gottfried isn't worried about him as much as he is the inside tandem of Chuck Hayes (6-6, 249) and Erik Daniels (6-7, 218). Although undersized, the two are one of the most effective frontcourts in the country, and Gottfried says his team won't be able to match up with them very well.

"Hayes and Daniels together are the best passing pair of inside players in the country. I watch a lot of basketball and I don't see a pair of people that do as well a job of passing the basketball. Those two guys look for one another. If there's a loose ball on the floor, they pick it up and score. The have the ability and knack to find the ball, they have great hands and put it in the basket. Daniels has had a run where his field goal percentages are unbelievable."

At the point guard position, the Wildcats bring a steady leader in senior Cliff Hawkins. The senior has hit big shots this season, especially a 3-pointer at Tennessee to force overtime in a game which the Wildcats eventually won.

"He absolutely competes every night and he's not afraid to make a big play late in the game," Gottfried said. "He's done a lot more for Kentucky than a lot of people would anticipate. He's underappreciated as far as what he brings to the team."

The other guard will be 6-5 sophomore Kalenna Azubuike. Off the bench, expect to see 6-9 sophomore Brendan Cote, 7-2 Polish freshman Lukasz Ozrbut, and sophomore guard Josh Carrier.

For Alabama, sophomore forward Chuck Davis didn't start the last game, but Gottfried isn't sure if he will start this game or not. Regardless, he needs more production from his usual starting forwards of Davis and freshman Jermareo Davidson.

"He's got to play better for us," Gottfried said, of Davis. "He's had a good couple of practices lately. This teams needs a presence offensively and defensively around the basket. For Jermareo, it's an awful lot to ask for him to be a double-double guy every game."

The Tide has defeated the Wildcats in three of the past five meetings, including a 64-61 victory at Rupp two seasons ago en route to an SEC Championship. But only one player on this year's roster saw significant minutes in that game-senior point guard Antoine Pettway.

"Every team is different," Gottfried said. "What has been in the past, good or bad, doesn't have a whole lot to do with this game. Most of our players didn't play in the last game up there."

The game will be televised by ESPN and will start at 6 p.m.


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