Men's Hoops Opens Two-Game Homestand With South Carolina

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper has scored in double figures in four-straight games coming into Saturday's contest vs. South Carolina.
Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper has scored in double figures in four-straight games coming into Saturday's contest vs. South Carolina.

Feb. 15, 2013


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team will return home for the second time in the month of February when it begins a two-game homestand against South Carolina on Saturday. The contest, which will be the lone meeting of the regular season between the two teams, will tip off at 3 p.m. CT and will be televised on the SEC Network.

“We’re looking forward to getting a home game,” UA head coach Anthony Grant said. “We’ve had a few road games so it will be good to get home. We’re playing a South Carolina team that I have a lot of respect for. Certainly, their coach (Frank Martin) and I go way back until the time when I was about 14 or 15 years old. We went to high school together, we coached together. He’s a really good guy. I’m aware of the challenge they’ve had of late, but really impressed watching their team play in terms of how hard they play, the way they defend, the intensity they play with. Our guys have to be ready for what’s coming.”

The Crimson Tide (16-8, 8-3 SEC) enter the game in a tie for second overall in the SEC standings, and have won eight of its last 10 games coming into Saturday’s contest. Most recently, the Tide captured a 52-45 victory at Georgia on Tuesday night. Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper was the only UA player to hit double figures, accounting for 14 points to go along with five boards in the win. He has now scored in double digits in four-straight games coming into Saturday’s contest.

It marked the ninth straight game that UA has held the opposition to under 60 points in a game, and the 16th time in 24 games this year that the Tide has achieved the feat. Alabama owns a record of 12-4 when holding opponents to under 60 points on the year.

Junior guard Trevor Releford comes into the South Carolina game as the team’s top scorer. A preseason All-SEC honoree, Releford ranks eighth in the league in scoring at 14.6 ppg. He also tops the squad in three-point field goal percentage (.400), steals per game (2.0) and free throw shooting (.830), and ranks second on the team in assists (2.4 apg).

Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game. Coming into Saturday’s contest, Lacey tops the team in threes made (42) and attempted (107) and assists (3.2 apg).

Combined, the duo of Releford and Lacey contribute 26.4 points per game, or approximately 43 percent of the team's 62.1 points per game.

Meanwhile, Cooper also averages double figures with 10.8 ppg. He leads the team in offensive rebounding (2.1 orpg), rebounds per game (4.4) and total field goals attempted (231).

South Carolina (12-12, 2-9) comes into its contest at Alabama on a five-game losing streak, and has lost seven of the last eight overall. Most recently, the Gamecocks fell at home to LSU, 64-46, on Thursday night. Senior forward Lakeem Jackson led the team with 10 points, three assists and three steals, to go along with seven rebounds.

Freshman forward Michael Carrera tops the squad in points (10.9 ppg) and rebounds (7.2 rpg) for the season. Junior guard Brenton Williams also averages double figures (10.0 ppg) and leads the team in three-point shooting (40 percent).

Junior guard Bruce Ellington, who is also a standout wide receiver on the Gamecocks’ football team, averages 9.9 points a contest, and leads South Carolina in steals per game (1.3).

Alabama and South Carolina will meet for the 37th time overall when the teams square off on Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Tide owns a 23-13 edge in the series history and has won four of the last five meetings in the series. The Tide owns a record of 11-2 when hosting the Gamecocks, including a 10-2 mark when playing USC in Coleman Coliseum.

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

Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant

On his thoughts about the defense recently:

“Well you know, the thing we talk about is as long as we defend like we’re capable of, we’re going to have a chance in every game. Just control what we can control. I know a lot has been made of some of the offensive struggles we’ve had, and really over the last five games we’re probably shooting a much lower percentage than we have all year. I think at one point we were leading the conference (in SEC games only) in three point percentage, we were shooting in the mid 40’s from the field. The last five games we haven’t done that, but we’ve won four out of five. A big reason for that is our guys have been committed to staying the course from a defensive standpoint and it’s allowed us to have a chance and that’s all we can ask. I believe as a team, you can call it an ugly win, you can say whatever you want to say about 60 points or whatever, but the bottom line is I want our guys focused on winning. I want them playing with confidence and having the trust in the preparation and the work they put in is going to pay off and we’ll continue to have a chance to win. Right now, we have a chance to control our own destiny, we’re 8-3 in the league, and we are tied for second place in the league. At the end of the day, that’s what we want. It’s about winning and these guys understand that. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

On his thoughts when someone calls it an “ugly win”:

“Ugly win beats a pretty loss any day of the week. Bottom line is to get the win.”

On guard Bruce Ellington:

“The biggest thing is his competitiveness. He’s a junior so he’s been through this league before. He’s a guy that ignites them from an offensive standpoint with his speed, his ability to shoot the basketball, and get to the rim. Defensively, he’s a guy who can get after the basketball and can create extra possessions for them by coming up with 50-50 balls whether it be rebounds or steals. He just affects the game in a lot of ways.”

On South Carolina being small:

“They are probably similar to us in terms of size in the front court. What’s impressive is I think they are top five in the league in offensive rebounding. At one point they were top five in the country at offensive rebounding. They are a team that really excels in transition because of their team speed and athleticism. [Michael] Carrera, a 6-5 freshman, the last four or five games is averaging close to a double-double. I don’t think it’s anything that has negatively impacted them. The focus for us is we have to be able to take care of the ball, find quality shots, stop them in transition and keep them off the glass. You break every SEC game down and it’s probably coming down to those same things.”

Sophomore Guard Levi Randolph

On what goes through his mind when someone calls the win an ‘ugly win’:

“You can’t control what other people say. You have to try to go out there and just get a win. We just try to go out there and do everything that Coach (Anthony Grant) asks us to do. A win’s a win.”

On their mindset before the game:

“We just try to go out and be aggressive. Our identity is 94 feet both ways, being aggressive on defense and coming out with energy, and trying to let our defense create offense. Those are the things that we try to go out there and do.”

On what challenges Bruce Ellington brings:

“He’s been in the league a long time. He’s very competitive. He brings speed and intensity to the game. He affects the game in a lot of ways.”