Bama Needs to Rebound

If Alabama players or coaches were dwelling on the back-to-back losses to high-level opponents LSU and Kentucky in the past week, a cure for those woes is imminent as Alabama hosts in-state rival Auburn at Coleman Coliseum Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Tide's final home game of the season.

Auburn is enters the game with a 12-15 overall record and 3-11 mark in Southeastern Conference play. Alabama is 21-6 overall after the loss, and 10-4 in league play.

Alabama will need its focus, because in addition to the extra emphasis placed on any Alabama-Auburn game, the Tigers are considered dangerous because of their style of play.

"They play four or five guards at times and teams are not used to guarding people like that. Things like that can really pose a problem if you're not ready to play," junior Bama forward Chuck Davis said.

Auburn averages 24 three-point field goal attempts per game, second only to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers have one regular contributor, 6-6 forward Quinnel Brown, above six-feet three-inches in height.

"They are a team that when they shoot well it makes them a different team," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said. "They are really hard to guard because they play basically five perimeter players. They spread floor and run their offense well. I think (Auburn Head Coach) Jeff Lebo has done a terrific job with what he has. They were very impressive on the road at Rupp Arena (against Kentucky) and went into South Carolina and beat them. Those things tell you how capable they are."

Meanwhile, Alabama ranks 10th in three-point defense, and allowed Kentucky to shoot 71 per cent from the field (and 8-of-10 from three-point range) in the second half of their game Saturday.

"We had a team shoot 71 percent on us in the second half. You have to give those guys credit but obviously we have to be a lot better than that. That's the main issue," Gottfried said Monday. "We've had a tough week and we have to correct some problems and get ourselves ready to play. Whenever you play Auburn its always a big game. It's important to our players and certainly to me. That's where our mind is now."

One area where Alabama should have an obvious advantage is in rebounding. Alabama outrebounds its opponents by 5.3 per game on average, while Auburn is worst in the SEC in rebounding margin, with a deficit of 4.1 rebounds per game to opponents.

" We have to come out here and really demand attention to the boards. We're bigger than them and we have to really play like we are," Davis said.

Alabama players had the day off Sunday after a 78-71 loss to Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats clinched a share of the Southeastern Conference regular season title, and left Alabama in jeopardy of losing its grasp on the SEC Western Division race. Alabama and LSU have identical 10-4 SEC records and have split head-to-head match-ups.

LSU finishes its regular season at Ole Miss Wednesday and at home against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Alabama travels to Mississippi State for its final game Saturday.

If Alabama and LSU both win their remaining games, Alabama would hold take the Western Division number one seed by virtue of its better record against divisional opponents, which is the next tiebreaker for conference tournament seeding. Alabama would be 9-1 against the Western Division, while LSU would be 8-2 in intra-divisional play if both teams win their remaining games.

Wednesday night's game, which will not be televised, is the final home game for the Crimson Tide this season. It also marks senior day for three Crimson Tide players, Earnest Shelton, Lucky Williams and Jason Reese.

"It really hasn't hit me yet. I feel like it's going to be fun, it's going to be a fun game, a fun time, and it's going to be my last home game," Shelton said. "Obviously it's a game you'd really like to come out and play well and leave with a win, but it's not going to be easy. We're going to have to play our best game to make it happen."

Gottfried said, "This senior class will be the first to go to the NCAA tournament all 4 years of their career since Robert Horry. Wednesday night is going to be fun lot reasons. It's senior night for a group of guys that have been role models and terrific people. I'm proud of all of them. I think Earnest has been a key guy for us, a graduate already, and a role model."

Senior manager Brian Pounders will also be honored in the senior festivities Wednesday night.

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