Tide closes out season versus Bulldogs

The Alabama men's basketball team all but wrapped up an at-large NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Arkansas. Now, the Crimson Tide (16-10, 8-7 SEC) can possibly get a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament with another win over No. 5 Mississippi State (24-2, 13-2 SEC) coupled with an LSU loss at Auburn.

Since the loss to Alabama, the Bulldogs have reeled off blowout wins at home against Auburn and LSU, and a three-point win at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs have not lost a road game all season, something nearly unheard of in college basketball.

"It's got all the makings to be a great game," head coach Mark Gottfried said. "They've got a lot on the line and we've got a lot on the line. They're a very good basketball team, we know it, and we've got our hands full."

Since the win at Mississippi State, the Tide won two more road games, at Auburn and Wednesday night at Arkansas. The Tide has four SEC wins on the road, and with eight wins in SEC play, the Tide has already won more conference games than last season.

"The win over there gave us some confidence, there's no question," Gottfried said. "We won at Auburn and at Arkansas, so I don't think there's any questions that that game was pivotal. Winning obviously breathes momentum and confidence. Our guys feel like they're playing well but understand we've got some good challenges ahead like Mississippi State."

But the Tide hasn't played as well at home, losing three games, while the Bulldogs have been phenomenal on the road, winning at places such as Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt.

"You've got to play with some poise, and our team has found a way to do that in some difficult situations," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "Some teams play well at home and can't find a way to be consistent at home, but our team has found a way to do that.

Senior Reggie Rambo will play his final regular-season game tomorrow versus the Bulldogs.

"Anytime you go on the road, those are all tough. There's no easy win on the road anywhere in this league, no matter what their team's record is or how they're playing. We'll take what we've done so far into Saturday's game."

Forward Chuck Davis led the Tide with 18 points at Arkansas, but it was point guard Antoine Pettway who hit the game-tying three-pointer that eventually sent the game into overtime. It was the second clutch shot that Pettway has hit this season, as he hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the Tide's win at Georgia.

"He's a young man that has a lot of courage," Gottfried said. "He never is afraid of any challenge out there. He's made big shots for us this year. He's just a wonderful young guy, and you like to see guys like that have success."

Junior forward Lawrence Roberts, an SEC Player of the Year Candidate, leads the Bulldogs in scoring (17.1 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg). Guard Timmy Bowers is second at 15.2 points per game, and guard Winsome Frazier, who scored 26 against Auburn, is third at 13.4 points per game. The Bulldogs' other starters are forwards Shane Power (9 ppg) and Branden Vincent (7.6 ppg).

Gottfried is still mum on his team's chances for playing in the NCAA Tournament, but said in Thursday's SEC teleconference that players are more worried about what they do on the floor.

"We just want to make sure we're playing hard every night," Gottfried said. "That's something we've been trying to do, and we've been fortunate enough to win some games."

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