Tide Looking Up

When an Alabama men's basketball team ranked as high as fourth in the nation hosts a team that "will have a chance to win the Ohio Valley Conference," the Crimson Tide should have a lot of confidence. But Bama Coach Mark Gottfried sees a challenge.

Alabama is 6-0 while the Tennessee State Tigers are 2-2 this season. Alabama will host TSU at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.

For those interested in a basketball bonus, the Crimson Tide women's team of Coach Stephany Smith, 5-2 this season, will host Savannah State at noon.

One ticket will get fans into both games, however, restrictions will apply. The women's game ticket is $5 and will be sold through the end of the first half of the women's game. Beginning with the second half, the men's ticket will be sold. Cost is $12 for adult and $8 for youth for the men's ticket. The arena will not be cleared in between games, so those who got in on the women's ticket are allowed to remain for the men's game. (The patron holding the men's ticket has priority on that reserved seat.)

Gottfried said, "We need to make sure we play at a high level. When they walk through the door, they're going to look like an SEC team physically: 6-11, 6-9, 6-7, 250; some junior college players who are excellent players. Tennessee State is a team that I think will have a chance to win the Ohio Valley Conference."

Tennessee State features 6-7 senior forward Clarence Matthews who is averaging 15.5 points a game, junior guard Ladarious Weaver who averages 15.0 points and has been named the OVC's "Newcomer of the Week" for the past two weeks, and 6-11 senior center Larry Turner who is averaging 9.8 rebounds a game.

Alabama has a 10-game winning streak in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide is ranked fourth in the nation by Scout.com, sixth by the Associated Press, and seventh in the Coaches Poll conducted by ESPN and USA Today.

Gottfried said, "We still feel we can play a lot better."

Alabama has played the last two games without All-America point guard Ron Steele. He has been sitting out of games and limited in practice as he recuperates from tendonitis in his right knee. Gottfried said, "I don't know the status yet with Ronald (Steele) as far as whether he'll play or not."

If Steele, who is averaging 12.8 points per game, does not play, his spot in the starting lineup is expected to be filled by Mykal Riley, a 6-6 junior college transfer who is averaging 11.5 points per game. While Steele plays point, Riley is a wing guard. Brandon Hollinger, a 5-11 guard, starts alongside Steele when Steele is in the lineup and moves to point when Riley is in for Steele.

Steele practiced Thursday and was expected to practice Friday.

Alonzo Gee is the small forward, averaging 15.5 points per game. Inside the Tide has strong forward Richard Hendrix, avragine 13.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and center Jermareo Davidson, who has had double figures in both scoring and rebounding in all five games he has played this year and averages 14 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

The Tide has played Tennessee State three times previously and leads the series 3-0. The last time they played was in 2005 when Alabama won 87-79 in Tuscaloosa.

Hendrix said, "Coming out against Tennessee State, we need to come out and be prepared and give it all we've got, execute our offense and also keep up the intensity on defense. Hopefully, if we do those things, everything should come out the way we want it to."

Following Saturday's game, Alabama hits the road for a Thursday, December 7 game at Notre Dame. That game will be televised by ESPN.

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