Win Saturday could spell tourney bid

The Alabama basketball team (14-10, 6-7 SEC) will look to continue its winning ways as the Crimson Tide will host Ole Miss (12-12, 4-9) in a pivotal game for the Tide's NCAA Tournament chances.

The Rebels defeated the Tide, 71-60, in the previous meeting between the two schools in Oxford, but that game can't be looked on with too much emphasis because the Tide was without second-leading scorer Earnest Shelton and lost center Jermareo Davidson with a slight knee injury just minutes into the game.

However, both are back and with two straight road wins, the Crimson Tide is playing its best basketball in the conference season--and at the right time.

"Having lost to Ole Miss already this year, that certainly adds to our respect for them," head coach Mark Gottfried said. "Our guys will be ready and excited to play this weekend. We went to Oxford 3-1 in the SEC, but without Earnest Shelton."

The game started a downward spiral where the Tide lost five straight and six of seven, something that definitely has left a sour taste in players' mouths.

"But our guys will be ready to play," Gottfried said. "They remember that game in Oxford a few weeks ago. I just want our team concentrating on our team and being as good as we can be at this point."

Right now, Ole Miss is just looking for wins. At one point, the Rebels looked like a potential tournament team, but then reality set in and most teams figured out that they aren't much more than the tandem of forwards Justin Reed and Aaron Harper.

"Alabama is playing very good right now having won two road games against two very good teams," Ole Miss assistant coach Eric Bozeman said. "They are confident right now and are poised to get an NCAA Tournament bid. We have lost two home games in a row so both teams are going in different directions right now. But we will go in there and give it our best shot. Right now we are just trying to get a win any way we can."

Jermareo Davidson has been playing his best basketball lately. Hopefully the freshman center will help offset Bama's earlier problems guarding Ole Miss on the inside. (AP photo)

Reed is a potential SEC Player of the Year candidate, and is leading the Rebels at 18.7 points per game. Harper isn't far behind, scoring 16.8 points per game.

"Those two guys have given us fits every time we've played them," Gottfried said.

But beyond that, the Rebels aren't very strong. The other starters are center Chris Rhodes, a 6-foot-6 junior averaging a paltry 0.5 points per game. Six-foot-one freshman Todd Abernethy is the Rebels' point guard, and is averaging 5.5 points per game. Six-foot junior guard Justin Johnson also starts, and is scoring 5.7 points per game. The Rebels have depth in forwards Tommie Eddie and Kendrick Fox, and guards Bam Doyne and Cavadas Nunnery.

Alabama is led by sophomore forward Kennedy Winston. The 6-foot-6 Winston leads the Tide at 17.2 points per game, and is coming off games where he scored 31 at Mississippi State and 27 at Auburn. He was named co-SEC Player of the Week for his efforts against Vanderbilt and helping engineer the upset of then-No. 4 Mississippi State.

Shelton is second on the team at 14.8 points per game, and forward Chuck Davis is averaging 10.5 points per game. Freshman center Jermareo Davidson has his best game as a Tider against Auburn, scoring 15 points and pulling down nine rebounds.

The game will begin at 3 p.m. and will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot.

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