New lineup sparks offense

Tide coach Mark Gottfried used to love bringing guard Antoine Pettway off the bench to provide a spark. Now he's realizing he doesn't want to have to wait. <br><br>Both Pettway and freshman Kennedy Winston were new faces in the starting lineup in the Tide's win over Auburn.

It was the second career start for both of them, with the first for Antoine Pettway coming against Bowling Green on Dec. 15 and Winston's coming at Vanderbilt on Jan. 11. They replaced Terrance Meade and Emmett Thomas, as Thomas and Earnest Shelton became the first men off the bench.

"They add more dribble penetration," guard Mo Williams said, of the new starters. "I think Earnest and Emmett are good spark plugs off the bench. Earnest came in and knocked down some good shots."

The change worked. Instead of Bama's normal pattern this year where the Tide would find itself down by 10 early, this time Alabama jumped out to a 10-2 lead due in large part to fresh chemistry provided by the new starters.

"Coach stuck me and Pettway in the lineup to bring some energy," Kennedy Winston said.

With Pettway in the starting lineup Saturday night, Alabama finally got off to a fast start offensively. (Associated Press)

It was a much better start for Winston in this game than in his other start where he shot 6-of-18 from the floor. In this game, Winston shot 4-of-9 from the field, and a better than average 5-of-8 from the free throw line to score 15 points while playing 35 minutes.

"Kennedy is a good player," Williams said. "It was a matter of time where he could get in a good groove and get used to it."

What Winston also brought to the table was his rebounding, as he pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds en route to his first career double-double.

"I feel more comfortable out there," Winston said. "Last year, Rod (Grizzard) gave them six, seven, eight rebounds a game. I gotta pick up that slack."

Gottfried noted Winston's rebounding ability as a key factor in his decision to play a smaller lineup, with Winston being a "big guard" and either Erwin Dudley or Kenny Walker as the lone big man on the floor.

"I think Kennedy Winston had a big effect," Gottfried said. "He gives us another rebounder, he takes it to the basket, and he was involved in so many different things. You have to remember he's only played in 10 games. It's been difficult. But the more he plays, the better he's going to get."

The decision to start Pettway was made, in essence, to create more opportunities for the Tide's leading scorer, Mo Williams. With Pettway running the show as the point guard, it allowed Williams to find his spot on the offensive end.

"We wanted to get Mo down the floor," Gottfried said. "We feel we could be more successful if we could go down the floor and already have Mo down there. We wanted to play with two point guards."

The move paid off, as Williams finished with 17 points. Pettway had only six, but five players scored in double digits led by 20 from Dudley. Along with Williams and Winston, Walker scored 13 and Shelton scored 11.

It was the first time all season that the Tide shot better than 50 percent.

Now the Tide finds themselves in a battle for their post-season lives, but Saturday's win over Auburn is a good start. There are six more games in the regular season, and the Tide must win at least one road game to achieve a .500 conference record. Home games remain with Georgia (this Tuesday night), Ole Miss, and South Carolina; while road games are at Tennessee, Mississippi State, and LSU.

"It's do or die for us," Williams said. "We've got to come out and play like our life's on the line."

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