Tide still trying to put pieces together

For all of the hype the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team had going into SEC play, many have wondered if the team would live up to it. <br><br>After four games and a 2-2 record, including losses to Vanderbilt and arch-rival Auburn, both picked near the bottom of their respective divisions, the answer right now is a clear "No."

That's not to say that it can't be corrected. After all, there are still 12 conference games left on the schedule. But after Tide coach Mark Gottfried gave praise to Auburn, his words summed up the play of the Tide as of late.

"We're just a little bit off and a little out of sync," Gottfried said. "Every part of our game is just a little bit off, and we have to fix it."

Erwin Dudley has been consistent, but few of his teammates can say the same. (Associated Press)

Aspects from the Auburn game that needed to be corrected include the Tide losing the turnover war (17-9), allowing 36 points in the paint while only scoring 18, and allowing the Tigers to shoot 46 percent from the field while only shooting 39.7 percent.

There was also some good in Saturday's game. Emmett Thomas scored a career-high 20 points, but didn't play much in the second half due to foul problems, where he eventually fouled out. If Thomas had been out there more, his shooting would have opened up more opportunities for Erwin Dudley down low, as he only took nine shots.

"It was real frustrating," Thomas said, of his foul problems. "I felt I was contributing a lot. I was thinking if I keep hitting those shots, it would take pressure off the other guys."

While Thomas was hot, wing players Terrance Meade, Antoine Pettway, and Kennedy Winston combined to shoot 2-for-18 from the field.

"We never seem to put it all together at the same time," Gottfried said. "We have one guy today who's hot, but other guys can't find the rim."

Gottfried has also noticed some problems defensively. In the loss to Vanderbilt, the Tide allowed the Commodores to shoot 57 percent from the field and 62 percent from the three-point line. Entering that game, the Commodores were dead last in the conference in three-point shooting.

"Defensively we've had some problems," he said.

Gottfried has also had to deal with the addition of Kennedy Winston. While Winston's upside is tremendous, the youngster is struggling right now to get adapted to SEC play. It's something that Gottfried expected from the freshman, especially after he missed 11 games due to an NCAA violation.

Winston scored six points in his debut, a home game against Arkansas, but struggled to a 6-for-18 shooting performance at Vanderbilt. He shot 2-for-11 at Auburn, but did hit two three-point shots late in the game to spark somewhat of a rally.

Transfer Emmett Thomas has been one of the few wing players capable of scoring points on the road. (Associated Press)

"We've added a player," Gottfried said. "You can't blame anything on Kennedy, but it makes it harder. We've got to find his rhythm and get him going."

Thomas and Gottfried were asked about road woes, and both had different answers. The answers said the same thing: neither one really know what was wrong with the Tide.

"I can't tell you what the problem is," Thomas said. "We just have to get it together."

"I just think teams have played well against us [on their home court]," Gottfried said.

Gottfried said that the team has been in a "hunted position" this year, and that has attributed to some teams just playing much better than they normally do. (Case in point: Vanderbilt).

The beginning of this season is looking like the end of last season. The Tide started off 9-1 in conference play, but struggled to a 3-3 showing in their last six games, including an 84-56 loss at Ole Miss, where the Tide will travel to on Tuesday. Tide fans, coaches, and players can only hope this is a reversal of last season, and the Tide will win some unexpected games on the road and continue to play well enough to win at home.

Gottfried knows that this can happen, especially when the pieces come together.

"We're good," Gottfried said. "We're gonna be good. We just have to improve on areas and get better at some things."

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