Men's Hoops Set For Rematch With Tennessee

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Senior guard Andrew Steele had 11 points and four steals in the Tide's win over Tennessee on Jan. 12 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Senior guard Andrew Steele had 11 points and four steals in the Tide's win over Tennessee on Jan. 12 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Jan. 25, 2013


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team will play a road game for the first time in 10 days when it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to square off against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday afternoon. The contest, which will be televised on ESPN2, is slated for a 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT) tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena.

“Obviously we just played Tennessee two weeks ago that came down to the wire, [we were] fortunate to win the game,” UA head coach Anthony Grant said. “Just watching them on film, you look at their record and I don’t think it really tells the story about their team. I think in just about every game that they’ve played in the SEC outside of their first game against Ole Miss, really a possession or two different and they could be 4-1. The thing for me that we have to understand is we are dealing with a team that is, for lack of a better cliché, probably a wounded animal. We’re walking in their building right now with their backs against the wall. The understanding that our guys have to have this upcoming game, is that we have to really lock in and understand what we have to do to go in there and have a chance to be successful.”

The two teams last met two weeks ago on Jan. 12 in Tuscaloosa, with Alabama capturing a narrow 68-65 decision over the Volunteers. Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey and junior guard Trevor Releford led the Crimson Tide with 15 points apiece. Sophomore guard Levi Randolph had 12 points to add to his team high six rebounds, while senior guard Andrew Steele added a season-high 11 points off the bench.

That contest featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes in the back-and-forth affair. Trailing 55-52 with 4:53 remaining, the UA defense created some offense, forcing the Volunteers into three-straight turnovers which jump-started a 10-0 run. The Tide was able to hold on for its first league win of the year.

Alabama (12-6, 4-1 SEC) is led on the year by Releford, who anchors an Alabama backcourt that features the top four scorers on this year’s team. A preseason All-SEC honoree and Cousy Award nominee, Releford ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 16.0 ppg and is third in the SEC with an average of 17.3 points per game in conference play. In addition, the Kansas City, Mo., native is second in the league in free throw percentage (.857), fourth in field goal percentage (.485) and seventh in steals (1.8 spg).

Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 12.2 points per game and leads the team in three-point field goal percentage for the season (43.8 percent). He also tops the team in three pointers made (35) and attempted (80) and assists (3.6 apg). Combined, the duo of Releford and Lacey contributes 28.2 points per game, or approximately 43 percent of the team’s 65.1 points per game.

Meanwhile, sophomore guard Rodney Cooper also averages double figures with 11.3 ppg. He leads the team in offensive rebounding (2.1 orpg) and total field goals attempted (180) and ranks second in rebounding (4.1 rpg).

Tennessee comes into Saturday’s contest sporting a 9-8 mark on the year and a 1-4 record in SEC play. Most recently, the Volunteers dropped a 62-56 decision at No. 23 Ole Miss on Thursday night.

Tennessee is led on the year by junior guard Jordan McRae, who tops the team with 14.5 points per game. He has been even more impressive in league play, as he ranks second in league games only with 21.6 points per contest, including a career-high 26 points against the Rebels on Thursday. He also tops the team in minutes (30.1 mpg), field goals made (82) and attempted (184) and free throws made (58) and attempted (74).

Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes (10.9 ppg) and junior guard Trae Golden (10.8 ppg) each average double figures for the Volunteers. Stokes leads the team on the boards (7.5 rpg), while Golden tops the squad in assists (4.3 apg).

As a team, UT ranks second in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense (.296), is fifth in field goal percentage defense (.402) and is sixth in scoring defense (62.3).The Vols are also one of the better rebounding teams in the SEC, ranking fifth in the conference with a +4.6 rebounding margin.

Saturday’s game will mark the 141st meeting on the hardwood between the two schools, which ranks as the fifth-most common opponent in UA program history. The Tide owns a 75-65 edge in the series, which includes a 21-42 record in games played in Knoxville, Tenn. This marks the first time since the 2008-09 season the rivals will square off twice in the same year.

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 playing a team for the second time in two weeks:

“It’s different because we’re both familiar with each other. We played each other a few games ago and obviously we can both look at those games. I’m sure they’re looking at it and say if we did a, b, and c a little differently, than the outcome could’ve been different. Really, at the end of the game Andrew [Steele] made three big-time plays in a matter 40 seconds that probably changed the outcome of the game for us. Just being honest, they outplayed us in a lot of ways. I think we look at that game and see some things we need to make adjustments with. I think both of us have probably changed a little bit since the last time that we’ve played. You know a lot of other things, physically and mentally, go into it as well.”

On how team is handling recent success:

“To be honest with you, based on yesterday’s practice, we didn’t handle it very well. We need to be able to lock in and understand what we’re walking into and what we are as a basketball team. Hopefully we’ll be locked in today and understand that we’ll be dealing with a very good basketball team that is hungry and eager. We have to be able to match that intensity.”

On only playing in a road game in the SEC and winning on the road in this conference:

“Well we don’t control the schedule, we just play the games. Obviously, we recognize how difficult it is, no matter in or out of conference we just try to get road wins. All we can do is control the things that we can control. One of those things is preparation, doing the things we have to do mentally and physically to get ready to go and play the game.”

On how you fight the mentality of letting down after a big win like Kentucky:

“I think it is human nature. Sometimes we have to fight that. My expectation is for Andrew and our veterans to really step up and understand the opportunity that we have here. As a coach, do I like it? No. Do I understand it? Yes. We’ve got to fight it and understand who we are and what we’re walking into.”

Senior guard Andrew Steele

On how team is handling recent success:

“I think we can’t focus too much on the past. We have won our last couple of games, but that doesn’t affect us going forward. I think we have to stay focused on the task at hand and just take it one game at a time. We can’t get satisfied by just winning a couple of games. We have to understand there is a big goal ahead of us and it’s a process that is involved and we have to stay committed to it.”

On first performance against Tennessee and trying to match the intensity:

“I think as our leader it’s important that I set a good example for how hard we are going to have to play, because on the road in this conference is a tough environment. Like coach said, they have their backs against the wall so I think they are going to be a little more aggressive, especially at home they’re going to be a little more comfortable. I think for us, it’s going to come down to our defense. If we bring the defensive intensity that we’re capable of, it gives us a chance to go up there and get a win.”

On if he likes the negative energy on the road:

“I think sometimes it can help. It’s a good feeling when you can go to someone else’s gym and quiet them, because you know you’re doing a good job. We understand that there is going to be positive runs for both teams. We know their crowd is going to get into it. We have to keep the focus on the big task and we can’t let those things bother us because we know no matter how loud the crowd gets, they can’t come out there and control what happens on the court.”