Bama Ready for Road Play

Coming off a record-setting 114-77 win at home against East Tennessee State, another first is on the horizon for the Alabama basketball team's young season when the Tide plays its first true road game of the year at Charlotte Saturday evening at 6 p.m. CT.

The Crimson Tide has experienced hostile environments, playing Alaksa-Anchorage on their home floor at the Great Alaska Shootout and a pro-Washington crowd in the finals of the same tournament, it's only loss of the season. Alabama enters the game with a 5-1 overall record, while Charlotte is 3-1 on the season.

Alabama rebounded from its first loss of the season, pounding East Tennessee State and setting several new high marks on the way. Freshman point guard Ron Steele's 18 assists set a single-game record. He did not commit a single turnover in the game. The Tide also set team records for assists (30), three point shots made (19) and attempted (41). Alabama's 114 points tied the second-highest point total in school history.

Charlotte is led by senior center Brendan Plavich, a senior guard averaging 15.3 points per game. He began his career at Vanderbilt where he averaged 10 points and led the Southeastern Conference in three point percentage (.441). Plavich averaged 12.2 points in his first year with the 49ers a year ago.

Four of Charlotte's starters average double figures in scoring.

"If we can defend them we're going to be able to play with them," Alabama senior Earnest Shelton said. "We feel like we have enough offensive weapons that somebody is going to be able to play good and get the ball in the hole. We don't want to get with a trading points game with them because then anything can happen."

The game projects as a high-scoring affair, with both Charlotte and Alabama are shooting over 50 percent from the floor for the year; Alabama at 52.2 percent and Charlotte at 50.9 percent. Alabama is averaging 90 points per game while the 49ers average 83.2 points per game.

"I really respect Bobby Lutz, their coach," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said. "I think they are going to be an NCAA tournament team. We've got to be tough-minded. Our players respect them from a year ago, and we know it's going to be a big challenge."

The game will feature two Wooden award candidates, Alabama's Kennedy Winston and Charlotte's Curtis Withers. Charlotte is the third straight 2004 NCAA tournament team Alabama has faced.

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