TUSCALOOSA ?? The No. 9 ranked Crimson Tide basketball team will take its show on the road in state this weekend when the University of Alabama goes to Mobile to play in the University of South Alabama’s double header of basketball, the Coor’s Classic on Saturday night.
Alabama, 8-1, will play in the second game of that event which will be held at USA’s Mitchell Center. The Crimson Tide plays Southern Miss at 7:30 p.m. CT. The Coors Classic opens at 5 p.m. when host South Alabama plays Ole Miss.
Alabama is making its third appearance in the Coors Classic. In 2001 Alabama defeated North Texas 94-55 and in 2003 the Tide was a 72-63 winner against Bowling Green. The event brings three men associated with the Alabama program home to Mobile. Gottfried is a 1983 graduate of Mobile’s UMS-Wright. His family moved to Mobile when he was in high school after his father, Joe Gottfried, was named Director of Athletics at the University of South Alabama, a position he continues today. It also marks a return home for Tide sophomore Brandon Hollinger, a LeFlore graduate, and freshman Mikhail Torrance who graduated from Mary Montgomery.
“First of all I think it’s great for us to play in Mobile, to be in the State of Alabama,” said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried. “We’ve played in Montgomery, Huntsville and Birmingham. We’ve been to Mobile a couple of times. Like I’ve said earlier, joking around, I can usually say no to my dad if he calls and wants us to play, but I have a hard time saying no to my mom if she calls. So we’re back in it again, the Coors Classic. We’re excited about it. I think it’s a great field with the double header with Ole Miss and South Alabama and with us playing Southern Miss. I think you have four good teams that should draw some fans and be a great night for basketball.”
Gottfried knows the game will also provide a challenge for the once-beaten Tide as it faces an unbeaten Southern Miss team.
“Southern Miss is a very, very good basketball team. They’ve earned our respect real quick watching them on film. They really defend you. They’re quick. They play extremely hard. They’re 7-0 and we’ve got a great challenge there on a neutral floor, so we need to make sure our guys are ready to play.”
Alabama and Southern Miss are playing each other for the 24th time but it’s the first time in a decade. The last time they played one another was in Hattiesburg in 1996 and Alabama left with an 83-69 win. Alabama leads the series, first played in 1951, with 18 wins to five wins by Southern Miss.
Nine games into the season, five Alabama players are averaging in double digits, led by sophomore forward Alonzo Gee’s 16.0 points a game. Senior center Jermareo Davidson is averaging 14.9 points and 10.6 rebounds in the seven games he’s played. Sophomore forward Richard Hendrix is averaging 14.8 points. Ronald Steele, who has only played in six of the nine games because of injuries, is averaging 12.7 points and newcomer and JUCO transfer Mykal Riley is starting and averaging 11.9 points a game.
Hendrix has Alabama’s hottest hand at the moment. He scored a career high 34 points last Saturday against Alabama State and after nine games, he’s shooting .607% from the field, having made 54 of 89 shots.
When Alabama’s players step on the bus to drive to Mobile Friday, it’ll make the first trip they haven’t had to pack along text books. Final exams end on Friday, and the last of the Tide’s tests will be taken Friday morning. Because it’s finals week, Alabama has not played since that December 9 Alabama State game, a game Alabama won 92-58 and made 67.9% of its shots (38 of 56).