On The Road Again

Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried knows that his team has a challenge playing at South Carolina Tuesday. But he thought his team faced up to some pretty good challenges on the road at Auburn and at Lexington and even in Oxford last Saturday.

It's a quick turn-around for Alabama's men's basketball team. After going to Oxford and defeating Ole Miss, 64-50, on Saturday, the Crimson Tide headed for Columbia Monday afternoon to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Tipoff will be at 8 p.m. EST (7 p.m. central time) with regional television coverage by Jefferson Pilot.

Alabama's road performance has been surprisingly good. Of course, it could be argued that for Bama to have a winning record at home is surprising. Despite losing the team's top player, Chuck Davis, to a knee injury in the season-opener, Alabama has fought its way into second place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 7-3 record. The Tide is 14-8 overall.

Bama has a 4-1 record in Coleman Coliseum in SEC games, the one loss the game in which Davis was injured. Alabama's solid halftime lead in that game evaporated, seemingly a team deflation based on knowledge that Davis was gone for the year. Bama avenged that loss to Mississippi on Saturday in Oxford when the Tide took a 64-50 decision.

That road game was one of three SEC games the Tide has won on the road. Alabama won back-to-back road games at Auburn and Kentucky. before losing at LSU. In Tuscaloosa, the Tide avenged that loss to the Bengal Tigers, who lead the SEC West with an 8-2 record. with Bama also lost a road game at Georgia.

Overall Alabama is 14-8.

South Carolina has been up and down this year. The Gamecocks of Coach Dave Odum have been able to beat Florida twice and beat Kentucky in Lexington, but have lost to Georgia in Columbia and to Ole Miss and were blown out by Arkansas. South Carolina is 4-6 in SEC play and 13-10 overall. The Gamecocks are coming off an easy 83-61 win over Mississippi State.

Before putting his team through an early Monday afternoon practice and then departing for Columbia, Gottfried said, ""I think we're going to be playing a team in South Carolina that's playing maybe as well as they've played all year long. They've got a lot of confidence, coming off beating Florida for the second time and then beating Mississippi State pretty bad the other day. So we're catching them at a time when they're hot. We're going to have to go in there and play terrific basketball to have a chance. But, our guys, like always, I think will be excited about playing."

The coach said, "I think they're playing at a high level right now. Tré Kelley (6-1, averaging 12.0 points per game) at the point is playing sensationally these last few games. I think with him and Ron Steele, you're going to look at two of the better point guards in the league if not the country. I think he's (Kelley) playing extremely well. I think (6-6 guard) Tarence Kinsey (14.2 ppg) is another guy who is playing very well for them. This is a team that shoots the three really well. They do a great job defensively and they're long, they're athletic, those type things. So, again, I think we are very well aware of how potentially good they can be."

South Carolina's starting lineiup also includes 6-6 forward Dwayne Day (6.2 ppg), 6-8 forward Renaldo Balkman (9.6 points, 5.9 rebounds) and 6-10 center Brandon Wallace (7.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg).

The only starter weighing over 200 pounds is Balkman, who has 208 pounds on his 6-8 frame.

Alabama counters with the 6-1 Steele (13.1 ppg), 5-11 point guard Brandon Hollinger (2.3 ppg), 6-9, 210-pound forward Evan Brock (3.9 ppg), 6-8, 265-pound forward Richard Hendrix (9.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg), and 6-10, 220-pound center Jermareo Davidson (14.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg). Steele said, "It's a big game just because it's another SEC game. We've got to win to try and get to the (NCAA) tournament. South Carolina is a good team, and it's going to be tough to beat them at home. So we've got to come ready to play."

Gottfried was asked about Richard Hendrix, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week, for the second time this year. The coach said, "I think Richard has really stepped his game up. He's really matured. He's a lot more in basketball game condition now, which I think is just helping him be a lot more effective as he plays. He's learning as freshmen do what he can do, what he can't do and how to be effective, how to score. He's also doing a great job rebounding the basketball. He's defending better. I think every part of his game right now is better than it was early on. I think that's just part of being a freshman and coming along. I think he's really matured for us."

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