Tide Back Home Hosting ETSU

After arriving back in Tuscaloosa early Monday morning from a disappointing final game at the Great Alaska Shootout, the Alabama basketball team continues its fast-paced schedule, hosting Murry Bartow's East Tennessee State team Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama came up three points short to 22nd-ranked Minnesota, losing for the first time, 79-76 in the shootout finals and dropping to 4-1 on the season.

"It's disappointing that we didn't get the job done. I don't think we're nearly where we need to be right now," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said.

"When you play teams like Washington and Minnesota early, they teach you about your team because they are good enough to expose you where you are weak. So we learned a lot, there's no question about that. We learned a lot more playing those guys than we would have learned playing bad teams, so from that perspective it was good."

Alabama enters Wednesday's game with four of its starters scoring in double figures, led by Earnest Shelton at 19 points per game. Chuck Davis is currently averaging 17 points per game, Kennedy Winson 15, and Ron Steele 11.

Gottfried said he thought Steele, Shelton and Davis played at a high level in Alaska, but wanted to see more of an offensive explosion from Kennedy Winston, who led the team in scoring a year ago with 17 points per game.

"He's not playing at a high, high level, and he and I have talked about that," Gottfried said. "He needs to play a lot better and do a lot more. We talk about scoring more baskets in the open floor and getting to the foul line. We've played five games and he's taken 16 foul shots. A guy that plays his position needs to be at the line more."

ETSU is 2-2 overall with losses to Fresno State and Marshall with wins over UVA-Wise and King College. The Bucaneers were 28-6 a year ago, and SoCon champions in Bartow's first year.

The guard-oriented team is led by Tim Smith, a 5-9 junior averaging 19 points per game. Smith was featured in Seth Davis' preseason Sports Illustrated article about the impact of speed players in the college game. Gottfried called Smith "one of the most exciting players in the country."

"He's quick. He gets a lot of shots off. He's going to be handful for us," Gottfried said. "He just keeps probing with the basketball. He keeps it in his hands if he's got an opening to the basket he goes. He's a blur."

In scheduling the Bucs, Gottfried said he wanted to continue the strategy of playing teams that will project as conference champions around the country.

Alabama will go on the road for another difficult non-conference game on Saturday at Charlotte.

"It's going to be another tough week for us this week with East Tennessee State and Charlotte," Shelton said, "two good teams; two more big challenges for us to get ready for SEC part of the season. These games are all important, all big, all a test for us."

Wednesday's game will be televised by Fox Sports Net with Dave Neal and Barry Booker providing the call. There is no television scheduled for Saturday's game.

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