TUSCALOOSA The No. 25 ranked University of Alabama basketball team heads to Knoxville, Tenn., for a midweek date with the University of Tennessee.
Alabama, 19-7 overall and 6-6 in Southeastern Conference play, takes on the Tennessee Vols on Wednesday, February 21, in a 7 p.m. CST game at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols are 18-9 overall and 6-6 in the SEC. The game will be televised on the Lincoln Financial Sports network with Larry Conley and Tom Hammond calling the action.
Two streaks are on the line Wednesday night. Alabama has won its last seven straight against Tennessee, including last year’s 92-79 win in Tuscaloosa that was led by Ronald Steele’s 22 points as well as double-doubles in scoring and rebounding from Jermareo Davidson (17 points and 14 rebounds) and Richard Hendrix (16 points and 10 rebounds). The Vols have a streak going, too. Tennessee is undefeated at home this season where it is 14-0.
“They’re (Tennessee) good at full-court pressing, and they do a couple of things that are different from any other team in the SEC. They’re good. They create pressure, have the up-tempo game, and they play especially well at home,” said Steele, Alabama’s junior All-SEC point guard. “I played there two years ago, my freshman year. It was a different environment than I think it is now. Coach (Bruce) Pearl wasn’t there, and they had a lot of different players. It was a good environment then, tough to play in. I haven’t had a chance to play there since he’s been there, but from watching their home games on TV, it looks like it’s a great environment. It looks like it’s an even tougher place to play.”
Alabama comes into the game after a 72-61 home win against then No. 20 ranked Kentucky on Saturday. Tennessee was on the road Saturday and fell 81-64 at South Carolina. The Vols had won three straight prior to the loss and are led by the SEC’s scoring leader, Chris Lofton who is averaging 20.4 points a game.
“I think we all know that at this time of the year everything gets magnified a little bigger,” said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. “Our guys I think are excited about the opportunity we have in front of us. Tennessee is very good. Extremely good at home, and I think they’ll be excited to play as well. We understand we’ve got a big challenge, and we’ve got to go and play good basketball.”
Alabama is led in scoring by the SEC’s leader in field goal percentages, sophomore forward Richard Hendrix. The Athens native is averaging a team leading 15.0 points and 8.9 rebounds. His .621% shooting from the field leads the SEC and ranks 13th nationally. Hendrix is one of four Tide players averaging in double digits in scoring. Jermareo Davidson averages 14.5, Alonzo Gee 13.0 and Mykal Riley 12.2. Steele is close to that mark at 9.4 points per game. And in his last five games, Steele, who has been slowed by injuries all season, is averaging 5.2 assists per game.
Following Wednesday night’s road game, Alabama returns home to host the Auburn Tigers in a sold-out Coleman Coliseum on Saturday at 4 p.m. CT. Alabama’s final home game is Wednesday, February 28 at 7 p.m. CT against Ole Miss. Tickets remain for that game. That game will be “Senior Night” for All-SEC center Jermareo Davidson. And on that night one of the Tide’s most popular collectibles will be given away in limited edition, a full-size metal lunch box featuring the 2007 Tide basketball team.