Tide Focused on Bulldogs

Over the past 10 days Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried's basketball team has answered plenty of questions. The Tide has won convincingly at home and consistently on the road, including a 60-55 win at Auburn Wednesday in a game no one would describe as a notably good Bama performance.

Gottfried went on the road to Oxford, Miss. and broke an undefined, yet undisputable hex that haunted the Tide in Ole Miss's "Tad Pad" since Gottfried came to Alabama. Gottfried was winless in the arena before last Saturday.

Also in the course of the past 10 days the Crimson Tide's defense neutralized Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts, one of the nation's best basketball players (Roberts reached 19 points, his average, in the blowout) and held Auburn's smallish three-point raining lineup to just 4-of-17 shooting from behind the arc.

Alabama has climbed to 14th in the latest Associated Press poll and enters Saturday's game at 16-3 overall, 5-1 in the SEC and unbeaten in Coleman Coliseum.

The schedule says Saturday night's basketball game in Tuscaloosa at 7 p.m. will feature Alabama against the Georgia Bulldogs. But in essence, Saturday night's game, televised by Fox Sports Net, will be a contest of Alabama vs. Alabama.

To continue the forward momentum gained in the past three outings Alabama must avoid a letdown Saturday night against a struggling Georgia team. The Bulldogs will not do anything the Tide can't withstand if Alabama continues to move in the right direction. Georgia, 7-9 overall and 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference, has lost six of its last seven games.

The only bright spot in that stretch was the Bulldogs 68-59 win at home over Vanderbilt last Saturday. That win came with leading scorer Levi Stukes out of the lineup with an ankle sprain, and walk-on Kevin Brophy the leading scorer.

Gottfried will use Alabama's escape from Athens with a 45-42 win in Athens a year ago as a reference to his accurate and well-made point that in the SEC there aren't any free wins. And if Alabama scores just 45 points in this year's game a second straight win over Georgia is not likely.

"It's going to be nice to be at home having played on the road a number of times early on," Gottfried said. "Remember, in our game at Georgia last year we had a real dogfight over there and squeaked out a win. So we've got to get our team ready to play. I think our players understand that and know that and will be ready on Saturday night."

Alabama's Kennedy Winston enters the game leading Alabama in scoring and fourth in the SEC with 17.7 points per game. Earnest Shelton is also averaging 17.7 points per game, but has 336 points in 19 games, one point less than Winston's 337. Chuck Davis is also averaging in double figures with 14.7 points per game, and starters Jermareo Davidson and Ron Steele have averaged 8.7 and 8.5 points per game respectively. Davidson is SEC's fifth-leading rebounder with 8.5 boards per game and Steele is third in the league in assists with 5.37 per game.

Alabama's offense is second-best in the SEC averaging 78.9 points per game, while Georgia is last in the league with 64.8 points per game. Alabama and Georgia are eighth and ninth in the league respectively in points allowed – Alabama allowing 66.5 and Georgia 68.6. Alabama is ranked higher than Georgia in all team statistical comparisons, with the exception of three-point defense and total steals.

Georgia sophomore guard Stukes has averaged 16.3 points to lead the Bulldogs, and freshman guard Sundiati Gaines averages 12.9 points per game. No other Georgia player averages double figure scoring, but freshman guard Channing Toney averages 9.9.

"We know a team like this can be dangerous because even though they are young, they are talented. We have to come in here and play really well to beat those guys," Davis said. "We recognize that they are a good team and they have great guard play. If they come in here and they're on, they can beat anybody, so we have to come in here and play great defense on the perimeter and hope we can get our inside game going."

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