Nov. 13, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama men’s basketball team will head to New York City where it will square off against Oregon State on Thursday night at 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET) in the championship round of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project. The contest, which will be played at Madison Square Garden, will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to go to New York and play in Madison Square Garden in a great tournament,” UA head coach Anthony Grant said. “We had two games here at home and now we get to advance to New York. We’re playing a very tough opponent in Oregon State. I had a chance to start looking at them and I’m really impressed with their team. They return, I think, 7 of their top 8 which is the majority of their scoring, rebounds and assists. So we’re looking at a veteran, very well coached team. Right now, the process for us is to get prepared for the challenge that lies ahead.”
The Beavers and Crimson Tide will play in the first game Thursday with both teams sporting a perfect 2-0 record. Alabama defeated South Dakota State (60-57) and West Alabama (80-49) in the Tuscaloosa Regional, while Oregon State captured wins over Niagara (102-83) and New Mexico State (71-62) in the Corvallis Regional.
Purdue (1-1) and Villanova (2-0) will take the floor immediately after the Alabama-Oregon State match-up. The losers of those games will play at 4 p.m. CT (5 p.m. ET) Friday in the consolation game on ESPNU, with the winners competing for the 2K Sports Classic title in primetime Friday night on ESPN2.
Leading the Crimson Tide will be sophomore guard Trevor Lacey, who is off to a sensational start to the 2012-13 campaign. A native of Huntsville, Ala., Lacey is averaging 19.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds a game this season. He is shooting 65-percent (13-of-20) from the floor and a remarkable 70-percent (7-of-10) from beyond the arc.
In addition, Alabama guards Rodney Cooper (16.5 ppg) and Trevor Releford (16.0 ppg) are each averaging double figure scoring for Grant’s squad.
Oregon State also has a dynamic player in junior guard Ahmad Starks, who is averaging 25.5 points and 6.0 rebounds through the Beavers’ first two contests. Starks went for a career-high 33 points in the win over New Mexico State last Sunday, on his way to Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.
Thursday’s contest can be heard locally on WDGM 99.1, as well as rolltide.com, while Friday’s broadcast will air on the Crimson Tide Sports Network. Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink will call all the action. Fans can also following along on the team’s official Twitter page @AlabamaMBB.
Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant Quotes
On Ahmad Starks (Oregon State Guard):
“He had 33 points for them last game and is averaging about 26 points per game. He rebounds well and starts the break for them. He does a lot of things to help their team. He’s a guy, another veteran guy for their team; that we’ve got to do a good job of being aware of where he is and trying to prevent his opportunities. Like I said though, they return the majority of their guys from last year and I think they have a lot of different weapons. He, obviously with the way he started the season, is very impressive.”
On this tournament benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project and what it means to him to play in it:
“I think it is a great opportunity. As I’ve mentioned, we had two games here at home where we had an opportunity to have a wounded warrior join us for the weekend (Bradley Ford). I think myself, our coaches and our players certainly got a lot out of that. I think for our players, it’s a great learning lesson to just get a chance to experience the privilege that we have to be involved in a sport, to play a game, and to know that we have great heroes out there that are protecting our safety, our way of life, and are willing to put their lives on the line. Those guys are just like us, just normal people, and we got a chance to experience that. Having Bradley Ford here for the weekend, I think, really hit home for our guys.”
On keeping his guys focused while playing in Madison Square Garden:
“Well, this is game three for us so every experience is going to be a different experience. We had some of our guys play in Madison Square Garden a couple of years ago in the NIT, so hopefully we’ll have our veterans like Andrew (Steele) and some of the other guys that will be able to let our guys know what to expect. However, it is a different opponent, it’s a different situation. The thing I talked to our guys about is every court we play on is going to be 94-by-50. The rim is going to be 10 feet, so we have to focus on what we need to do to give us a chance to win.”
Alabama Guard Andrew Steele
On what he remembers about Madison Square Garden and what he’s telling his teammates:
“It is a fun experience, but like coach said, once the game starts you put all the outside stuff out of your mind and focus and the things you have to do to prepare to win.”
On his excitement getting to play in Madison Square Garden:
“The first time I think we got goosebumps, but I know for me, Trevor [Releford] and Carl [Engstrom], it will be our second time so I think we’ll be able to help our young guys put it out of their mind. I’m sure for them it’s going to be an exciting environment, but once the game starts we know we’re there on a business trip to win.”
On how he feels about the start of the season:
“I think it’s good anytime you can win. We’ve only played two games, but I’m really excited about our team. We’re still young and we’re going to grow up and get better. I think the thing we try to work on is our defense. I think it’s the biggest area we can improve is understand how hard we have to play and that our defense is going to be what gives us a chance to win every game.”