TUSCALOOSA Saturday night will find the University of Alabama basketball team (14-11, 3-7) in Columbia, South Carolina where the Crimson Tide will play the University of South Carolina (11-12, 3-6) at 6 p.m. CT in Colonial Center.
The game will be televised on Fox SportsNet South. Bob Rathbun will call the play-by-play and former South Carolina head basketball coach Eddie Fogler will be the analyst. Alabama’s game will also be carried on the radio on Sirius 123 and the Crimson Tide Sports Network. A list of radio affiliates and a listening link to CTSN’s broadcast can be found on Alabama’s official website, www.rolltide.com.
“I think that Dave (Odom) has his team playing very well,” said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried whose team is coming into Saturday’s game fresh from a 76-67 win at home against Ole Miss on Wednesday. “I know they got beat (at Georgia) but they’re a tough matchup with the way they play. Most teams in the league have had a difficult time just matching up with them with the way they’re shooting the ball from the 3-point line. For us it will be a big challenge going over there to Columbia and playing them.”
The game should feature two out of the Southeastern Conference’s top four scorers in Alabama’s Richard Hendrix and South Carolina’s Devan Downey. Downey, a sophomore guard, ranks second in the SEC in scoring with his average of 19.4 points 23 games into the season. Hendrix, a junior All-SEC forward, ranks fourth in scoring with his average of 18.7 points. Hendrix, who leads the SEC in rebounding in both all games, 10.3, and league games, 10.4, is the only player in the SEC who is averaging a double-double.
It will also mark a reunion between the two coaching staffs. Gottfried and South Carolina head coach Dave Odom travelled to Kuwait together twice, in August of 2005 and again in May 2006, to coach U.S. troops as part of the USO’s Operation Hardwood: Hoops for the Troops, a goodwill mission where they coached U.S. military members in a basketball tournament. The match-up also features a Tuscaloosa native with strong Alabama connections on the South Carolina bench. Carolina assistant Barry Sanderson is the son of former Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson (Gottfried’s UA coach).
The South Carolina game is one of four road games Alabama plays in its final six games of the 2008 season. Following Saturday night’s game, the Crimson Tide have a week between games with no mid-week game scheduled. Alabama will travel to Auburn for a Sunday, February 24 CBS game at 1 p.m. CT. It will host Arkansas on February 27, then hit the road for games at Ole Miss on March 1 and at LSU on March 5, then play its final game of the regular season at home against Vanderbilt on March 8.
South Carolina is the team in the SEC that Alabama has played the fewest times as the Gamecocks joined the league in 1992. Though the two teams first played one another in the long ago disbanded Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament in Atlanta in 1923, this game will mark only the 30th time these two teams have played one another in basketball, a sharp contrast to the number of meetings Alabama has had with its oldest college opponent, also an SEC team, Mississippi State whom Alabama has played 178 times. Alabama leads the series against South Carolina 19 wins to 10, including last year’s 64-61 win in Tuscaloosa.