Tide Basketball Returns To Action

Nine days, five stitches and dozens of final examinations later, the University of Alabama basketball team returns to action Monday night when the Crimson Tide, 5-3, plays host to Wofford, 4-3, in the first round of the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic.

Alabama is hosting the first two rounds of the event in Coleman Coliseum before heading to Las Vegas this weekend for two more games. Tip-off Monday night in Coleman Coliseum against Wofford is at 7 p.m. CT. Tickets are available and can be purchased at the door for $12 or $8 for ages 18 and under.

Monday night's game marks the first of a special family-friendly ticket promotion for the next five Tide home basketball games. Four tickets can be purchased for a total of $20, and each additional ticket is only $5.

Monday night's game marks the third time Alabama and Wofford have played one another in basketball and the second time during the Mark Gottfried coaching era. Alabama leads the series 2-0, including 2001's 68-64 win in Tuscaloosa.

This is Alabama's first game since December 8 when it defeated Nicholls State 91-53 at home in Coleman Coliseum. The Tide's players spent the last week studying, taking final exams and practicing.

Junior point guard Brandon Hollinger had three stitches on his face after inadvertently meeting the elbow of a teammate under the basketball going after a rebound during practice Tuesday.

And three of the team's players graduated on Saturday morning, including point guard Ron Steele, guard Mykal Riley and forward John Dill. They celebrated their matriculation—by practicing with the team on Saturday afternoon.

"I think it's important to have a week off from playing a game during finals because you want guys to be able to concentrate on their school work. That's the primary reason they are here, to get an education, and we also play basketball," said starting forward Demetrius Jemison who is averaging 7.8 points and 5.0 rebounds going into Monday's game. "And the week has been important to us because it helps get better at things we may have gotten wrong in the first couple of games of the season. The first part of the season is almost over, so you want to correct those mistakes that you made and prepare for SEC play in January."

Wofford, meanwhile, returned to the court after a seven-day-break on Saturday night, falling 66-57 at Elon in Southern Conference play. Wofford has already played two league games, defeating UNC Greensboro on December 8.

"They shoot the three really well," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried of Wofford. "I think last year their team set a school record for the most three pointers made in the history of their program, so that tells you right away that they are trying to create some three-point shots for each other. Interesting, when you watch them on tape, the couple of games that we have, their best player has not played until the other night. He comes right back in and takes 18 shots in his first game, (Shane) Nichols. So they're a little bit different team right now than they were even a week or two ago. I think they are a very good basketball team. I think they are very capable with the way they shoot the three, so we've got to make sure that we know how to guard them and those type things."

Wofford is the first of four games Alabama is guaranteed to play in the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic. It will follow Wofford with hosting Texas Pan American on Wednesday, December 19 at 7 p.m. CT then will travel to Orleans Arena in Las Vegas to play Missouri State on December 22 at 7 p.m. CT. It will play the winner/loser between Purdue and Iowa State in the fourth and final round on December 23. A win against Missouri State puts Alabama in the 9:30 p.m. CT game. A loss finds it playing at 7 p.m. CT.

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