Any Place Like Home?

The famous chant from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz was that "There's no place like home," but if any place has been "like home" for Alabama lately it's Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Alabama basketball has had its road woes, but has a modest three-game winning streak in its past three trips to Auburn and will go for four in a row there Tuesday night. Alabama has won the last seven meetings.

It's a late start for Tuesday night's Southeastern Conference rivalry game between Alabama and Auburn, and hopefully the late tip will give the Crimson Tide time to get ready, and avoid the early-minute woes it has suffered in its two previous SEC road games.

Alabama enters Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in Auburn with a 15-3 overall record, and a 2-2 record on Southeastern Conference play, but the Crimson Tide has yet two win a league game on the road thanks to a pair of devilish starts. Alabama trailed 14-0 to Arkansas and 16-0 to Vanderbilt in its first two away conference games, both resulting in Crimson Tide losses.

"We've got to make sure it doesn't happen again," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said. "We've got to start the game with a little more energy and not allow what two or three teams have done to us this year."

"We've got to get better, more consistent on the road."

In part to blame for the slow starts and poor shooting defense is Ronald Steele's less-than-healthy ankle. It has bothered him early December when the Tide played at Notre Dame. His lack of explosion has been noticeable, even while his value in clutch performances has more than made up for it. And he has been challenged on defense.

"I think right now teams are really going at Ron," Gottfried said. "We're not in a position to have him extend his defense and pressure the ball as much as we like to a lot of times. They are making him work."

Keying better defense for Alabama late in the game against Georgia was Brandon Hollinger. Hollinger took over late in the game guarding the point and slowed Georgia's offensive attack. But he does not normally start, and that permits opponents a chance at a hot start.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. Auburn is 12-8 overall, and 2-3 in SEC games. Auburn's has home wins against Tennessee and Vanderbilt and road losses at roald losses at Mississippi State, Kentucky and LSU.

The Tide is led by a starting five which all averages double figures in scoring this season. Sophomore Alonzo Gee leads the Tide with 14.9 points per game. Senior Jermareo Davidson, a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award candidate, averages 14.3 points and 9 rebounds a game.

Auburn is led by sophomore guard Rasheem Barrett, who averages 12.6 points per game.

"I think Auburn is a very good basketball team," said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. "They have improved a great deal over the last couple of years and they play extremely well at home. They are quick, they are athletic and we are completely aware of the fact that we are going to play a very good basketball team on Tuesday night."

The Crimson Tide has won the last seven games in the series, dating to the second meeting of 2003. Alabama defeated Auburn 56-52 last season in Auburn, then went on to knock off the Tigers 71-61 in Coleman Coliseum.

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