Gottfried confident in veteran team

Saturday's loss at Mississippi State dropped Alabama a notch or two in the national polls, but Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried believes he's got a veteran squad, capable of bouncing back immediately. <br><br>"Our players were hurt by the loss," Gottfried said. "But we're not anywhere near the point where we're going to panic.

"It was a loss, so it was a big deal. But there is a lot of basketball left to be played."

Bama now experienced

When he first arrived at Alabama, Gottfried made the decision to rebuild the program from the ground up, targeting in-state freshmen that will contribute for the long-term. As a consequence his teams have sometimes struggled the last two seasons, as freshmen and then sophomores worked against older teams.

But the core of that squad has now grown up. "Our players have been around long enough that they know not to pout over a loss," Gottfried said. "If you do that, it can just set you up for the next (loss). You've got to put a loss behind you, just like you've got to put a win behind you."

Dudley tough to handle inside

Dudley battles for position. (AllSport)

Earlier this season junior Erwin Dudley became only the tenth player in Alabama history to get 800 (or more) rebounds. The power forward has been a mainstay all season for the Tide, leading the conference in rebounding.

"I look at film of post play in our conference, and right now it's about a 100 percent wrestling match every night," Gottfried said. "As the year goes on the officials tend to call less and less fouls. Adjusting to the officials is toughest on post players, trying to figure out what they can and cannot do."

Lacking depth on the inside, Alabama this season has relied on Dudley's patience and smart play to stay out of foul trouble. "Obviously Erwin is a strong player," Gottfried said. "He has hung in there all season. He plays smart. He knows he's got to be in there for a lot of minutes, so he plays intelligently."

Gottfried wants shooters to shoot

Shelton can be deadly from long range.

One of the factors that doomed the Tide versus Mississippi State was poor shooting. Alabama has several players on the roster capable of nailing a three-pointer, including Terrence Meade, Rod Grizzard, Mo Williams, Antoine Pettway, Travis Stinnett and true freshman Earnest Shelton.

For the season Alabama is shooting 31 percent from three-point range, but in Saturday's loss the squad was an embarrassing 3-of-24 (.125).

But Gottfried was not unhappy with his team's shot selection. Not at all. "Shelton was only 1-of-10 on three pointers," Gottfried said. "And after looking at the film, I liked every one of his ten shots. If Earnest and Terrence and those guys get open looks, I want them to take them. If they don't go, then we might go home with a loss.

"If you're a baseball manager and Mark McGwire strikes out, you don't send him up there to bunt the next time. We've actually had good balance all over the floor this year scoring."

Mo brings missing piece

Shown stealing the ball from LSU's Torris Bright, Mo Williams hasn't backed down an inch against SEC competition. (Associated Press)

Aside from players like Dudley, Grizzard and Meade being a year older and more mature, the obvious improvement in Alabama's team this year is at point guard. Averaging 10 points and more than four assists per game, true freshman Mo Williams has been a difference maker. "We started paying close attention to Mo in the summer after his tenth grade year," Gottfried explained. "He was just phenomenal."

Having played guard himself in college, Gottfried was excited by what he saw. "Mo is a tremendous competitor. He's got that fire in his belly. He brings so much speed. And he's got all the skills. He comes from a great family. His brother graduated from West Point, and Mo got great guidance at home. They kept him focused."

Rated by many as the No. 1 point guard prospect in the nation last year, the pride of Jackson, Mississippi could have attended any school he wanted. But he chose Alabama. "I think distance and the opportunity to play right away had a lot to do with his decision," Gottfried said. "He watched our team last year. We were like a football team without a quarterback, which is going to attract you some (recruits). That was the position we were in."

Though only a true freshman, Williams is eighth in the SEC in assists and fourth in steals.

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