Tide Has Tough Assignment Vs. Vols

For the fourth time this season, the University of Alabama men's basketball team will face a Top 25 ranked team—in fact the third Top 10 team. Alabama, 12-8 overall and 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference, plays host to the Tennessee Vols at 8 tonight in Coleman Coliseum. Tennessee, 17-2 overall and 4-1 in SEC play, is ranked seventh by the Associated Press and eighth by ESPN.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN with Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and Jeannine Edwards calling the game for the network. To give the game an extra element of excitement and make Alabama's fans' presence felt en masse, Tide fans are asked to wear white to the game to "White Out" Coleman Coliseum. Tickets can be purchased through Alabama's official web site, www.rolltide.com ; by calling 1-877-TIDETIX; or at the Coleman Coliseum Athletic box office.

Fans of either team coming to the game are reminded of the Crimson Ride, a free bus shuttle that will pick up fans from the Soccer Lot off of University Boulevard and drop them off at the steps of Coleman Coliseum. The shuttle begins an hour before tip-off and continues after the game to return fans to the lot. Coleman Coliseum's lot is all reserved parking.

Tennessee comes into the game with only one loss in conference play, a 72-66 loss at Kentucky last week. The Vols are led by 2007 SEC Player of the Year Chris Lofton, who averages 14.5 points a game. He holds the SEC all-time record and ranks among the Top 10 all-time in the NCAA in three-point shooting.

"They are a terrific team," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried who has an 8-3 record against the Vols as Bama's coach. "As you watch them on tape and begin to study Tennessee, they've got a lot of weapons. They are very, very athletic. And I think they have played at a high level all year long, from the first day of the season. So they've proven it. They belong in consideration as one of the best teams in the country."

Tuesday night marks the 134th meeting between Alabama and Tennessee. Alabama leads the overall series with 71 wins to 62 by Tennessee. The two teams swap home and away games every other year. Last year in Knoxville, it took overtime for the Vols to win 69-66. Before that, Alabama had won seven in a row in the series. Tennessee's last win in Tuscaloosa was in 1998 when it beat Alabama, coached then by David Hobbs, 84-70.

"Tennessee is a very good team," said Alabama junior guard Brandon Hollinger. Hollinger is listed as a probable starter at point guard after making six (of nine) three-point shots in Saturday's 97-77 Alabama home win against Auburn. He started against the Tigers.

Hollinger said, "They are ranked in the Top 10 in the nation right now. The strong part of their team is the defensive part. They're going to stop you from trying to get the ball inbounds. They've got a pressure defense that I think it's the best pressure in the nation as I've seen so far. It's kind of hard to get past them. But once you get the ball inbounds, they kind of back off you. But they've got a pretty good team all around. They play four guards most of the time. They're athletic. They can shoot. They can drive the ball. They are strong all over. The whole team is just strong all over. Like I said, they are ranked in the Top 10 in the nation, and you aren't in the Top 10 for nothing, so we are going to have to come out ready to play those guys."

The probable lineups for Tuesday night's game find Hollinger, who averages 6.5 points and 3.1 assists, starting at point guard (freshman Rico Pickett is expected to get a large amount of minutes); Richard Hendrix, who leads the SEC in rebounding and averages 19.4 points and 10.2 rebounds will start at forward as should sophomore Demetrius Jemison who is averaging 5.2 points and 5.0 rebounds. Alabama's other two starting guards are two of its scoring leaders, junior Alonzo Gee who is averaging 15.9 points and 7.8 rebounds and senior Mykal Riley who averages 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. Gee is 13 points away from scoring his 1,000th Alabama career point.

Lofton (14.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg) should start at guard for Tennessee along with JaJuan Smith (13.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Ramar Smith (8.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.5 apg). At forwards the Vols are expected to start Tyler Smith (13.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Wayne Chism (8.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg).

Alabama caps its four-game home stand on Saturday when the Tide hosts the LSU Tigers in Coleman Coliseum at 2 p.m. CST.

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