Nov. 21, 2012
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Prior to tonight's Alabama-Charleston Southern game, fans will have the opportunity from 5:30-7 p.m. to get a picture taken with the 2K Sports Classic championship trophy. The trophy will be located in the North entrance (main concourse) of Coleman Coliseum. Fans must provide their own camera or cell phone.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team, fresh off winning the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project last week, will return to the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum to take on Charleston Southern on Friday night. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. CT.
"First off, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving," head coach Anthony Grant said. "We are excited about getting the chance to get back on the court. Charleston Southern is a team that we have great respect for. They are coming off a good season last year and are picked to win their league this year. They have had some highly-contested games so far this year and they have been very impressive on film. We are looking forward to the challenge on Friday night."
The Crimson Tide is off to a 4-0 start this season following a pair of wins last week over Oregon State (65-62 on Nov. 15) and Villanova (77-55 on Nov. 16) in Madison Square Garden to claim the Classic's title. Junior guard Trevor Releford, who was tabbed the SEC Player of the Week, earned the Most Outstanding Player award, while sophomore guard Rodney Cooper was named to the all-tournament team.
Alabama will be looking for a 5-0 start to the season for a second-straight year - a feat that hasn't occurred in back-to-back years since the 1995-96 and 1996-97 campaigns.
Releford comes into Friday night's contest leading the Tide with 17.8 points and 2.0 steals per contest. Against Villanova in the Tide's previous contest, the Kansas City, Mo., native accounted for a career-best 25 points, including hitting all five of his three-point attempts. Sophomore guards Trevor Lacey (16.3 ppg) and Cooper (15.5 ppg), also average in double figures for UA.
Charleston Southern, which was picked as the preseason favorite to win the Big South by the league's head coaches, comes into Friday's contest with a 1-3 record. The Buccaneers have lost to Charlotte (68-58 on Nov. 9), Arizona (82-73 on Nov. 11) and most recently East Tennessee State (59-57 on Tuesday night). CSU's lone win of the season came against Hiwassee (105-69 on Nov. 15).
Sophomore guards Arlon Harper (13.0 ppg) and Saah Nimley (12.0 ppg) lead the squad in scoring, while senior forward Mathiang Muo (11.3 ppg) also averages double-digit scoring for the Bucs.
"Charleston Southern has good depth and can shoot the ball extremely well," Grant said. "They average about 30 three-point attempts a game, get to the free throw line quite a bit and have outrebounded almost every team they have faced. The challenge for our team is getting prepared for a somewhat different tempo of the game than we've seen as of late. It will be a challenge for us to guard the three-point line, keep them off the free throw line and rebound the basketball. Those are all areas we are focused on improving and we hope that improvement continues."
Friday's contest marks the first time that Charleston Southern and Alabama will meet on the hardwood.
Ticket's for the contest will be a holiday break special price of $8 at the door.
The game can be heard live on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink on the call. Fans can also follow the game action on the official twitter site of Alabama men's basketball @AlabamaMBB.
Head Coach Anthony Grant Quotes
On what he learned about his team in New York City
"I feel like we are getting better with every game. When you look at our first game against Stillman (exhibition game on Nov. 6), I think we improved over the course of that game. We got better during the South Dakota State game. Every game this year we have grown a little bit and that's good. We have a lot of youth on our team and have guys with different roles and different responsibilities on this team. Right now, in the month of November, the focus is to try and get better every day and to learn about what we need to do to put ourselves in the position to be successful. I feel like our guys are doing that."
On improvement of second year players
"I think there is a comfort level with the guys that are now sophomores when they are on the floor. There is a little more stability in terms of their understanding both offensively and defensively in terms of what they need to do."
On the role of Rodney Cooper on this year's team
"It's the same as everyone else. For us, it starts with affecting winning in a variety of ways. Coop (Rodney Cooper) has been able to score the basketball. He's always been able to score the basketball. He had some games as a freshman where he showed explosiveness as far as his ability to score. He does a lot of things. I think right now he is averaging about four rebounds a game for us. He is active in our press and does a good job getting a lot of deflections and making things happen on the defensive end of the floor. There are expectations for all of our guys to play their role and do what they have to do in order for us to win."
On the leadership of Trevor Releford
"Trevor is our most experienced guy in terms of minutes played. We have depended on him even during his freshman year. He has seen a lot and has grown a lot in terms of his understanding of our identity and his impact on the team. I am very happy for him to be selected the (SEC) Player of the Week and the success he enjoyed individually. I think he would be the first to say that his teammates are the ones who made a lot of those things happen."
On the improvement of the team's perimeter shooting
"We talked about that at the beginning of the year. My whole thing is that we get quality shots. I think we are doing that. I've been pleased with how we are sharing the basketball. Our ball movement every game so far is getting to the point that they enjoy sharing it, which has led to us getting quality shots."
On Charleston Southern
"They are a very dangerous team. From an effort and physicality standpoint, I've been very impressed watching them on tape. They play extremely hard and are an explosive offensive team. They average 30 threes and 25 free throws a game. They went on the road and outrebounded Charlotte and went on the road and outrebounded Arizona, so they are a good rebounding team. They get an average of 18 offensive rebounds a game. Those are areas for us that we want to improve. We have to do a better job of being consistent rebounding the basketball. We have to take care of the basketball and limit the opportunity for other teams to get out in transition and get easy baskets. These guys are very explosive. They've got 90 percent of their team back from last season and are picked to win their league this year. They will be a very tough opponent and our guys will have to be mentally and physically locked in and ready to go."