Next step tonight versus Georgia

Saturday's victory over rival Auburn was a satisfying win--but at the same time only a first step. <br><br>If the Tide is to earn its second-straight NCAA Tournament bid, then it simply must play well down the stretch. And the 20th ranked Georgia Bulldogs are up next.

Having coached for and against Georgia Head Coach Jim Harrick numerous times in the past, Alabama's Mark Gottfried knows the Bulldog team well. "Obviously they're a very good team and are very well coached," Gottfried said. "We feel better about ourselves after the Auburn game. Hopefully that will give us some momentum for the rest of the season."

Both teams sport identical 14-7 records overall. Ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press, Georgia is 6-4 in the SEC. At only 4-6 in league play, the Tide is unranked. The Alabama/Georgia game will begin at 8 pm, Central Standard Time at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. ESPN will televise the contest.

Three Georgia starters average in double-figures scoring, and the other two come in at 9.8 and 7.9 per game. "In Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams, Georgia has two of the better wing players in the country," Gottfried said. "Those two players are so good that you're not going to shut them out. You've got to try and take them out of their comfort zone. They may be the best combination 2-3 players (shooting guard, small forward) in the country. We've definitely got our hands full."

Senior guard Ezra Williams averages 16.8 points per game for Georgia and 5.1 rebounds. One of the most dangerous offensive players in the conference, Bulldog forward Jarvis Hayes scores at a 17.2 point clip.

"As a team, Georgia just scores so well," Gottfried commented. "They can score quickly, and they score in a lot of different ways. Very few teams have held them down offensively. They're effective off the break and in their half-court offense. They can come at you pretty quick."

With the Tide utilizing a smaller lineup for most of the Auburn game, Erwin Dudley was freed up to do his thing. For the game the senior all-star had 20 points, 10 rebounds and one blocked shot. (AllSports)

Tonight's game will mark a major milestone in Tide forward Erwin Dudley's career. Ranked fourth-best rebounding and tenth-best scoring in the all-time Alabama record books, Dudley will break the record tonight for consecutive starts. Last year's SEC Player of the Year, Dudley is currently tied with former Tide great Eddie Phillips (1979-1982) at 121 consecutive starts. Including high school, Dudley has started in 201 straight games.

For a change the Tide got off to a quick start last Saturday, jumping on Auburn early and cruising to a 16-point win. After studying the film, Gottfried pointed to several factors as responsible for Bama's success. "We moved the ball as well as we have all year," he said. "That led to a better flow on offense, and that led to making our shots.

"I think it was key that we hit some shots early. Kennedy Winston, Earnest Shelton and Antoine Pettway all gave us a boost in confidence.

"And we defended as well as we have in awhile. I think it all came together for us on both ends."

Most pundits predict that the Tide needs to finish with at least a .500 record in league play to be sure of an NCAA bid. To get there, Alabama will have to win four of its remaining six SEC games. At least one of those wins must come on the road.

The Auburn win was a satisfying start, but Gottfried dismisses talk of momentum. "If we want to play in the NCAA, then we've got to win a lot of games," was how he put it. "More than anything we've got to find ways to finish our games. That means playing well and getting the job done. If that's momentum, fine.

"Our players understand what's at stake. We need to finish strong and play well doing it. Our guys are focused on (tonight)."

Because of the heightened national security alert, extra security measures will be in place at Coleman Coliseum this weekend. All bags, including purses, backpacks, briefcases, etc., will be searched upon entry to the coliseum. Fans are encouraged to arrive a tad earlier than they might normally arrive as the security checks will slow the lines into the coliseum.

Early arriving fans to tonight's Georgia game will receive a Terrance Meade bobblehead doll.

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