Alabama Welcomes Tennessee In SEC Home Opener

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper is averaging 14.1 points per game in home contests this season.
Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper is averaging 14.1 points per game in home contests this season.

Jan. 11, 2013


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team will take on Tennessee in its Southeastern Conference home opener on Saturday afternoon. The contest, which will be televised on ESPN2, is slated for a noon tipoff at Coleman Coliseum.

“We are excited to have an opportunity to open up SEC play here tomorrow against Tennessee,” UA head coach Anthony Grant said. “I’m very impressed watching their team. Obviously, we’re in our second game coming off a tough loss on the road against Missouri. I think we’ll need to play with a sense of urgency and do a great job on the defensive end and be able to attack their defensive presence. I’ve been really impressed watching them on film in terms of what they do on the defensive end as well. We are looking forward to the challenge tomorrow.”

The Crimson Tide (8-6, 0-1 SEC) is coming off an 84-68 loss at No. 10 Missouri on Tuesday night in both teams’ first SEC game of the season. Junior guard Trevor Releford led three scorers in double figures with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor. In doing so, the Kansas City, Mo., native became the 46th player to record 1,000 points in his career (1,004). Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper added 11 points, while freshman forward Devonta Pollard chipped in with 10.

Releford continues to anchor an Alabama backcourt, which features the top four scorers on this year’s team. A preseason All-SEC honoree, Releford tops the team in points (16.4 ppg) and steals (1.8 spg). He is also one of the top three-point shooters (42.6 percent) and free throw shooters (84.2percent) in the Southeastern Conference.

Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game and leads the squad with 3.3 assists a game. The Huntsville, Ala., native ranks among the league leaders in three-point field goal percentage (41.9) and three pointers made per game (1.8).

Meanwhile, Cooper contributes 12.2 ppg and leads the team in rebounds per game (4.7) and total field goals attempted (143).

Tennessee comes into Saturday’s contest sporting an 8-5 mark on the year. Like the Crimson Tide, the Volunteers opened the year with a loss in their league opener, falling to Mississippi, 92-74, last Wednesday in Knoxville, Tenn.

Junior guard Jordan McRae leads a trio of UT players who average double digits a game, collecting 12.7 points per contest. He is also the Vols top three-point shooter, averaging 33.9 percent from beyond the arc (20-of-59).

Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes averages 11.6 points per game, and leads the team in rebounding (7.8 rpg), blocked shots (12) and field goal percentage (.539). Junior guard Trae Golden adds 11.4 ppg and tops the squad in assists (4.3 apg).

As a team, Tennessee comes in as one of the better defensive squads in the league. The Vols enter Saturday’s match-up ranked second in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense (27.5), fifth in rebounding defense (33.2 defensive rebounds per game) and sixth in scoring defense (61.3).

Saturday’s game will mark the 140th meeting on the hardwood between the two schools, which ranks as the fifth-most common opponent in UA program history. The Tide owns a 74-65 edge in the series, which includes a 42-17 record in games played in Tuscaloosa and a 25-8 mark when playing UT in Coleman Coliseum. Alabama comes into the contest riding a two-game winning streak in the series following a 62-50 win last season in Tuscaloosa.

Fans can also listen to the action on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink on the call, or follow in-game tweets on the team's official Twitter page @AlabamaMBB.


On Tennessee:

“Tennessee is a very disciplined and well coached team. They’re coming off a tough loss at home in their SEC opener so I would expect that they’re going to come out with great intensity. We’ve got to do a great job at number one, taking care of the basketball and being able to handle their defensive pressure and then we have to be able to bring some pressure of our own and bring the toughness that we need to give us the best chance to win. I think it’ll be a great matchup, we’re expecting an SEC type matchup in terms of physicality and intensity of the game so we’ve got to be ready to go in all phases.”

On if he’s reaching any of his mentors to help get past this hump as a coach:

“I don’t feel like I really need to get past anything as a coach. I think it’s the game of basketball. I think my biggest thing right now is getting these guys to understand what it’s going to take. I think right now as a team, what we talk about is accountability, focus, readiness and the understanding of how we need to go into games. The mindset we need to have as a team. You see signs of that improving, but for me I do not need to go through therapy or anything like that as a coach right now. I think I understand where our team is and I’m with these guys everyday so I know the reality of it.”

On team’s mindset heading into Saturday’s game:

“Like we talked about when we were 6-0 in November, we have to get better. There are things that we are doing right now that if we don’t improve, they are going to catch up to us. Going through the stretch that we went through, that we’re in the middle of or at the end of, I don’t know where we are with it right now, is that it’s never as bad as it seems. Outside of maybe a couple of games, I feel like these guys have been focused in terms of what we’ve asked them to do. We’ve had lapses offensively that have cost us games. We’ve had lapses defensively that have cost us games. We’ve had inconsistent play out of individuals that have hurt us at times, but there have also been some things that we’ve done that when we can put that together, we have a chance to be a good team. As much as I want to win every individual game, and as a coach you die with the wins and losses, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re trying to build up a program that can compete for championships and this is a part of the process that we have to go through. I want to speed it up, I think our players want to speed it up, but at the same time we understand where and who we are. Our focus right now is Tennessee. What can we do to put ourselves in the best position to win our next game, what kind of mindset do we have to have, and if we continue to improve with every game and practice and preparation then I think this team has great potential. We have to stay the course.

Junior Guard Trevor Releford

On hitting a wall in the second half of close games recently:

“I wouldn’t necessarily say running out of gas, but we had a couple of defensive possessions that we could’ve taken advantage of and we didn’t. They capitalized and made the lead bigger and I think that is what hurt us.”

Senior Guard Andrew Steele

On hitting a will in the second half of close games recently:

“I think we have to get in the mindset of being able to finish. Coach always tells us it’s going to be a 40 minute game and I think we get in times where we relax a little too much. I think an area we can get better on defense is in the past, it’s been able to create offense for us and I think it’s something we’ve struggled a lot more with this year.”