Last Saturday's 19-point, 14-rebound game against Providence illustrates the point. Just like Morehead State did Monday, the Friars ran two, even three defenders at the 260-pound senior. But it turned out to be just another day at the office for Erwin Dudley. His season stats, 14.9 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game, indicate that double-doubles are commonplace for Dudley.
In fact, along with his several other nicknames ("E-Dud, "Helicopter") Dudley's teammates have recently taken to calling him "double-double" in honor of his statistical proclivity.
"He's tremendous," Providence head coach Tim Welsh said of Bama's senior power forward. "He's one of the best big men in the country, if not the best.
"He's got great hands, he's unselfish, and plays tremendously hard. He's like an old school player, he just gets out and plays. He doesn't waste any energy around the basket."
Like every other opposition coach, Welsh had scouted the Tide well. And once again, Dudley was double or triple teamed whenever he got the ball, aided by the zone defense Providence played. As a result Welsh's troops turned the game into a physical battle between Dudley and numerous Friar defenders.
It wasn't the first time that had happened, and it most certainly won't be the last.
Over the course of his career, Dudley has adjusted to playing outnumbered, although he says it's sometimes frustrating. "Teams are real physical," Dudley said. "I expect it. As the games go along it gets more physical. You gotta adapt to it or you'll get ‘did in' every time.
"You have to be physical back with them."
Despite the physical play game in and game out, Dudley has yet to get into foul trouble, leading the average fan to believe that he might not fulfill his end of the physical battle. But for the senior, avoiding fouls is a point of pride, based on a combination of maturity and skill. For the season, Dudley is averaging only 2.1 fouls per game.
As a matter of fact, Dudley has fouled out of only five games in his four-year career with the Tide (108 games), with four of those coming his freshman season. "It has a lot to do with experience and being strong," the 260-pound Dudley said.
"He plays pretty smart," Tide coach Mark Gottfried explained. "He picks his spots where he feels like he needs to get one (foul). If our defense out front is strong, we can keep opposing teams from getting the ball in there."
"Dudley isn't the most glamorous player on the court," Gottfried added. "But throughout the game he's going to compete. He's going to get it done."
Sometimes, with a defense focusing in on one big man, it makes it hard to feed the ball to him inside. But point guard Mo Williams studies the opposing defenses and adjusts to them.
Some teams (like Morehead State in the first half) pack things in tight, opening up opportunities for Bama's wing players. Providence, on the other hand, extended their zone far enough out to allow Dudley to operate. "They spread it out and came out to get us," Williams recalled. "The free throw line was wide open the whole game. All Erwin had to do was put a body on someone and that's what he did."
With Dudley as a constant threat to score down low, the Tide is facing more and more zone defenses. Besides having to find a way to get the ball inside, the Alabama wing players face the challenge of making long-range shots.
When their shots are falling, it opens up more one-on-one opportunities for Dudley. "We go up against (the zone) every day in practice," junior guard Antoine Pettway explained. "We know teams are going to run it, it's just a matter of us making the shots."
Pettway's head coach trusts his outside shooters and thinks it's only a matter of time before Bama's long-range offense clicks into gear. "At some point we're going to be a good offensive team," Gottfried said. "When that happens, we're going to be a really good team overall."
And when that happens, Dudley's offensive production will only get better.