Tough Trip Continues For Tigers

Auburn, Ala.--A tough stretch of games for the Auburn men's basketball team will continue Wednesday at 7 p.m. as the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa to face <A HREF=>Alabama</A> at Coleman Coliseum, a place where the Crimson Tide is 13-1 this season.

Auburn (12-15 overall, 3-11 SEC) is on a four-game losing skid after falling to Kentucky and LSU last week. Alabama (21-6, 10-4), which is ranked 19th in the coaches poll and 21st in the AP poll, has lost its last two games, also against LSU and Kentucky.

"We're not getting them at a great time," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "They're coming off two emotional losses, and having Senior Day for Earnest Shelton, they're going to be ready and primed to get back on track and send Earnest out on a good note.

"They've had two games where they could have won both," he added. "They're one of the most talented teams in the league. Their last game was the first game they've lost at home so they play exceptionally well at home."

Shelton, who is averaging 16.3 points per game at shooting guard, scored 22 points at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in the Tide's 60-55 win over Auburn on Jan. 26. Alabama's leading scorer for the year is junior swingman Kennedy Winston, who scored 16 points in the previous meeting.

Quinnel Brown is one of four Auburn seniors who will be playing his last game in Tuscaloosa Wednesday night.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried's squad doesn't have much depth, but it has possibly the most talented starting five in the league, rounded out by point guard Ronald Steele and big-men Chuck Davis and Jemareo Davidson.

"Offensively, they can score at every position," Lebo said. "They have terrific one-on-one players when their offense bogs down. They have some guys on the perimeter and on the post who can get their own shots."

Davis (6-7) and Davidson (6-10) have both made tremendous improvements throughout their careers and are two of the top rebounders in the league. Davis averages 14.4 points and 7.0 rebounds while Davidson averages 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds.

At point guard, true freshman Steele leads the SEC with 5.1 assists per contest. He only averages 7.8 points, but is very capable of scoring in the clutch for his team.

In the first meeting, with Steele on the sidelines in foul trouble, Auburn turned a 15-point deficit into a one-point game before the Crimson Tide was able to pull out the win.

"We had a couple of turnovers late in the game that resulted in dunks--some fast break opportunities that got the crowd into the game," Lebo said. "It was a low scoring game. Both teams did not score a lot of points. They took a double-digit lead on us in the second half. We had to scratch and crawl to get back in it. We played very well defensively in that game."

Auburn hasn't won in Tuscaloosa since the 1998-1999 season and has a 5-31 record all-time inside Coleman Coliseum.

"If you look at their record in there the last couple of years, they're a team that's awfully good at home," Lebo noted. "They're 13-1 this year, and against Auburn in the series they're up 38-7 (in Tuscaloosa). They shoot the ball better at home. Some teams play exceptionally better at home and I believe Alabama is one of those teams."

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