Tide/Tigers tip off again

If Alabama hopes to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament, it must somehow find a way to turn its fortunes around and finish the season strong. However, things don't get any easier for the beleaguered Tide, as Western Division leading Auburn travels to Tuscaloosa for a Saturday night game.

"We are excited about this weekend," Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried said. "Auburn is a very good team and in first place in the West, so our guys are looking forward to it. It'll be a great challenge. Our guys are determined to finish the season on the right note, and that makes it a big game for us."

Tip-off at Coleman Coliseum on The University campus is set for a later-than-normal 7:30 pm (CST) to accommodate Pay-Per-View. Alabama enters the game at 13-7 overall, 3-6 in the SEC. Auburn's record stands at 17-5, 6-3 in conference. Neither team is ranked.

The game is officially listed as a sell out, but fans can access the broadcast on pay-per-view through their cable or satellite networks.

The two teams met earlier in the season, with the Tigers taking a 77-68 win on its home court. "Auburn played very well against us," Gottfried said. "(Auburn reserve) Kyle Davis always seems to play well against us, and Marquis Daniels is an especially difficult player to defend."

Tallying 20 points, Emmett Thomas was the Tide's leading scorer in its earlier loss to the Tigers. (Associated Press)

Averaging 18.4 points per game, Daniels is his team's leading scorer. Daniels was one of four Auburn players that scored 13 points in their win over the Tide earlier in the season.

Ranked dead last in the SEC in shooting percentage, the Tide has struggled mightily this season to mount any kind of a consistent offensive attack. "Last Saturday we had several shots right at the basket that didn't go in," Gottfried said of his team's recent loss at Florida. "A good team has got to make those shots, but that has been our story this year."

"Sometimes when you're missing shots a team can lose patience," Gottfried continued. "The rim starts getting smaller and smaller. As those shots start to fall our way, we'll start to feel more confident."

Alabama holds a comfortable overall lead in the series, 76-50. But the Tide has dominated on its home court, winning 36 out of 43 games in Tuscaloosa.

Despite Bama's recent struggles, Auburn Head Coach Cliff Ellis is taking nothing for granted. "It will be a tough battle," Ellis said. "It should be a great game Saturday. It's always a great match-up. It's in Tuscaloosa, so the fans will really be into it. Alabama will be fired up."

Since neither team played a midweek game, both squads should be well rested. "It's been a good week," Gottfried pointed out. "We had some time to rest this week and we've had some good work as well. Both teams should be fresh and ready to go come Saturday."

After being ranked No. 1 earlier in the season, the Tide is in serious jeopardy of not even making the NCAA Tournament. Conventional wisdom holds that no team will receive a bid without at least a .500 record in its own conference. At this point Alabama would have to win five of its seven remaining games to reach that mark.

Realistically that will be tough to accomplish, so Gottfried is asking his players to focus only on Saturday's game. "I'm excited about where we're headed," he said. "I'm excited about this last seven game stretch, and I think our guys are excited about finishing strong."

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