Tide Opens SEC Tournament Play

The University of Alabama men's basketball team continued its preparations for the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a practice at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday.

Alabama, the Western Division's No. 4 seed, tips off with South Carolina, the Eastern Division's No. 5 seed, Thursday at noon CST. The contest will be broadcast regionally on the SEC Network and on ESPN360.com.

Having faced each other only eight days prior to Thursday's meeting, the Crimson Tide (16-14, 6-10 SEC) and Gamecocks (15-15, 6-10 SEC) share some recent familiarity with one another.

Crimson Tide senior guard Mikhail Torrance was asked about his observation following Bama's regular season finale win over Auburn that Alabama is a "dangerous team" in the tournament. He said, "We've got two big wins coming into the SEC Tournament. We had a great chance to win the couple games we did lose. So I just think we have a great chance on a neutral court to do a great job."

One of those final two games in which Alabama won was at South Carolina, just a week ago. The Gamecocks opened the game with an 11-0 run and led by as many as 14 points, before Alabama came back to win, 79-70. The Tide was led in that game by SEC Freshman of the Week Tony Mitchell, who scored 13 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Torrance said, "We knew coming in there was going to be a lot of emotion. It was their senior night. Our coaches kept reminding us during the game. When things settled down, we continued to stay focused and just continued to go with the game plan. We just had to fight back. They threw the first punch, and we just had to continue to stay steady."

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant was asked if the win over the Gamecocks was "a defining moment."

"I don't know if I'd say it was a defining moment," Grant said. " It was a very good win for our basketball team. I thought it showed great character for our guys. With everything, the distractions, the adversity that we had going into that game, with the emotion of it being senior night on the road, for our guys to stay together and fight, I thought it showed great character. You know, it was a great win. It's one win.

"Obviously, that game last week will have nothing to do with the 40 minutes that we've got to play tomorrow. Both teams will make adjustments and be very well prepared. They're coming off a great win at Vanderbilt as well. So we'll look at that and try to learn what we could from it and then be prepared for tomorrow."

The winner of Thursday's game advances to the second round to face Kentucky, the Eastern Division's No. 1 seed and regular season SEC champion, Friday at noon.

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