Alabama will meet LSU on the road in pivotal SEC game - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Alabama will meet LSU on the road in pivotal SEC game

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© Alabama can't afford a loss to LSU on Saturday if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. (abc3340.com) © Alabama can't afford a loss to LSU on Saturday if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. (abc3340.com)
© Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said his team will need to play its best to beat the Tigers on Saturday. (abc3340.com) © Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said his team will need to play its best to beat the Tigers on Saturday. (abc3340.com)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For the second time in two weeks, the Alabama men's basketball team will take on the LSU Tigers on Saturday afternoon in an important Southeastern Conference match-up. The contest is set to tipoff at 12:30 p.m. CT from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and will be televised on the SEC Network.

"We're looking forward to the challenge of going on the road again and playing a team in LSU that is playing really good basketball right now," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "They're winners in two of their last three, six of their last nine. [They're a] very talented team, as we're aware of. Last time we played them, a couple of weeks ago, it was a highly contested game. We were fortunate to win as it came down to the final possession of the game. Our guys are familiar with who they are and we understand how difficult it is any time you go on the road in this league so we have to be at our best."

The Crimson Tide (18-8, 10-3 SEC) enters the game alone in second place overall in the SEC standings. UA is one of the hottest teams in the league, having won four straight and 10 of its last 12 games coming into Saturday's showdown. Most recently, the Tide captured a 64-56 victory over Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper recorded his first career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while junior guard Trevor Releford added 17 points and five steals.

As a team, the Tide had a season-high 18 steals on the night, which were the most since setting a single-game school record with 22 takeaways on Dec. 14, 2001 vs. Jacksonville State.

It marked the 11th straight game that UA has held the opposition to under 60 points, and the 18th time in 26 games this year that the Tide has achieved the feat. Alabama owns a record of 14-4 when holding opponents to under 60 points on the year.

Releford comes into the game as the team's top scorer. A preseason All-SEC honoree, Releford ranks ninth in the league in scoring at 14.5 ppg. He also tops the squad in three-point field goal percentage (.392), steals per game (2.1) and free throw shooting (.819), and ranks second on the team in assists (2.7 apg).

In addition, Releford has 175 career steals and needs two more to become Alabama's all-time steals leader, currently held by Senario Hillman, who finished his four-year career with 176 takeaways.

Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 11.9 points per game. Coming into Saturday's contest, Lacey leads the team in threes made (45) and attempted (118) and assists (3.2 apg).

Combined, the duo of Releford and Lacey contribute 26.4 points per game, or approximately 42 percent of the team's 62.4 points per game.

Meanwhile, Cooper also averages double figures with 11.1 ppg and has now reached double-digits in six consecutive contests coming into the LSU game. He leads the team in rebounding (4.6 rpg), offensive rebounding (2.0 orpg) and total field goals attempted (250).

LSU (15-9, 6-7) comes into Saturday's affair having won two of its last three games and five of its last seven overall. The Tigers have won 12 of their 14 home games this season, including a victory over Missouri on Jan. 30.

Most recently, the Tigers went on the road where they dropped an 82-72 decision at Tennessee. Sophomore forward Johnny O'Bryant led LSU with 24 points and eight boards in the losing effort.

O'Bryant leads four LSU players who average double figures with team highs of 13.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He is also averaging a near double-double in SEC play with 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds a contest.

Sophomore guard Anthony Hickey leads the team in assists (3.9 apg) to go along with 11.8 points per game. Defensively, he leads the nation in steals per game (3.2) on the year.

Junior forward Shavon Coleman (10.6 ppg) and junior guard Andre Stringer (10.6 ppg) also average double figures for the Tigers.

Alabama and LSU will meet for the 170th time in series history on Saturday afternoon – the second-most times UA has played any one opponent in program history. The Tide owns a 102-67 lead in the all-time series, which includes a 17-23 mark when playing in the Maravich Center.

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 the secret to Alabama winning close games:

"I don't know that there is a secret. We've been in a lot of close games of the course of the season and I think our guys have done a good job of being focused and understanding what we need to do, whether it's executing an offensive play at the end of a game, or coming up with defensive stop or rebound, or making timely free-throws. You just have to play the game and our guys have done a good job of that."

On if he thinks youth is a reason for inconsistency or if youth is an excuse:

"I think it's real. We're dealing with college students that have a lot going on in terms of the demands of being a college athlete and the demands of being a student. They have individual, personal things going on in their lives as well. I think there is, for lack of a better word, always distractions and sometimes it's very easy to get complacent in no matter what you do. For our guys, it's a constant challenge, just like anybody else, to stay focused on the task at hand and to not lose sight of the process so to speak. I think some of that has to do with maturity that you see sometimes with young teams having to understand. We've had a lot of lessons over the course of the season, some of them being tough lessons. My hope is that we can get better at that and it's my expectation that we will."

On what he's learned since the last time Alabama played LSU:

"Like I said, they're a very good team. It came down to the final possession of the game. More than anything, this is our second time playing them, anytime you go twice in the league I think there is a familiarity. We just have to take care of ourselves, make sure we're focused, and understand that we're going on the road and the mindset and preparation that we have to have. We know it's going to be a tough game."

On Andrew Steele and Nick Jacobs availability:

"Andrew is a game-time decision, but hopefully we'll have him back. We'll see today (at practice) on Nick. He was still sore yesterday, but we'll see where he is today."

Junior Guard Trevor Releford


On the secret to Alabama winning close games:

"I agree with coach. It's about staying focused and I think another thing is us staying together as a team. We have each other's back."

On needing just two more steals to capture the school record and what that means to him:

"It means a lot to me, but I can't really focus on that because we have a chance to do something that's big for our team, so that's what I'm more concerned with."

On why there hasn't been much consistency:

"At times we can be a young basketball team, we can lose track of what the main goal is. He [Coach Grant] preaches to us every day about controlling our own destiny and I think everybody is ready to take on that challenge."

Source:  www.rolltide.com

Gameday Matchup

 
ALA
LSU
W-L 18-8 15-9
Avg Points 62.4 70.6
Avg Points Allowed 57.3 67.3
Home Record 12-3 12-2
Road Record 4-5 3-7
Current Streak W4 L1

Team Stat Leaders

 ALALSU
Points T. Releford 14.5 J. O'Bryant III 13.5
Rebounds R. Cooper 4.6 J. O'Bryant III 8.6
Assists T. Lacey 3.2 A. Hickey 3.9
Steals T. Releford 2.1 A. Hickey 3.2
Blocks M. Gueye 1.7 A. Del Piero 1.2
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