Rested Tide Gets Ready For Auburn

Sometimes, a rest can do a body good. Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried hopes the midweek bye his team got will pay off when the Crimson Tide travels to Auburn Sunday.

"Anytime you have a midweek day off, I think it's good," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said Thursday. "It allows (players) to catch up in some areas, academically. We've also been able to kind of get away and get refreshed."

Alabama (14-12, 3-8 SEC) is coming off a 67-65 loss at South Carolina Saturday. "We played well enough to win, and we didn't. That hurts," said Gottfried. "Our players have done a great job of bouncing back."

One Tide player hoping to do some bouncing back of his own is freshman point guard Rico Pickett. He's been notably absent from the Tide lineup of late. After starting 14 games early in the season, Pickett has lost his job to junior Brandon Hollinger.

"Rico's been great," Gottfried said. "He's had a great practice Monday and Tuesday. He's responded very well." Other than the possibility of Pickett re-entering the playing rotation, Gottfried indicated there would be very few personnel changes this week.

One thing remains the same: it's Alabama vs. Auburn. "It sounds like a broken record, but it's true," Gottfried said. "It means a little more to the players and coaches on both sides. We anticipate a great atmosphere and a very competitive game on Sunday."

The Tigers of coach Jeff Lebo (13-11, 3-8) lost to No. 2 Tennessee 89-70 Wednesday in Knoxville.

Senior Frank Tolbert averages 13.7 points per game for Auburn, but that number rises to 17.2 in league play.

"He's very intense," Gottfried said, and he would know, having coached against the 6-4 Tolbert seven previous times. "He plays really hard. He's a tough matchup. (Post players) have a hard time guarding him. He can make the three, and he goes to the basket hard."

Tolbert's fellow senior, 6-foot-8 Quan Prowell, is Auburn's top scorer overall at 14.7 per game and he leads his Tigers on the boards by grabbing 5.9 per contest.

Due to Tolbert's playing out of position at power forward, Bama may have to go with a smaller lineup. "You've to to defend them," said Gottfried, "and they've got to defend you. We'll watch and see how the game develops.

"If they start shooting the basketball well from the three-point line, you‚ve got to find ways to take that away."

Lebo and his staff are expected to try to counteract Bama's top three-point man, senior Mykal Riley, who lit up South Carolina for 28 points and eight treys last week. Gottfried sees Riley, his lone senior and a juco transfer, coming into his own as his career winds down..

Gottfried said, "You can always see just a little more urgency in everything. You know its almost over. Mykal Riley (is) in that boat."

Earlier this year in Tuscaloosa, Alabama defeated Auburn by 20 points, 97-77.

Tipoff in Beard-Eaves Coliseum Sunday is set for 1 p.m. CST. CBS will televise the game.

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