Mitchell Suspended As Tide Goes To AU

As if things on the road for Alabama basketball are not difficult enough, the Crimson Tide will be away from home for two games this week and almost certainly will be without star forward Tony Mitchell for at least one of them.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant announced Monday that junior forward Tony Mitchell "has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team." As is almost always the case, Grant did not elaborate except to say that it was an "accumulation" rather than a specific event. He said the decision was made following Bama's double overtime win over Ole Miss Saturday night.

Alabama is 1-3 in Southeastern Conference road games this year and has two games away from home this week. Bama will be at Auburn at 8 p.m. CST Tuesday and goes to LSU Saturday. This will be the first meeting of the year against the Auburn Tigers. Alabama defeated the LSU Tigers, 69-53, in Coleman Coliseum on Jan. 11. Tuesday's game will be televised on ESPNU.

Alabama is 15-7 overall and 4-4 in SEC games. Auburn is 13-10 overall and 3-6 in the conference. The Tigers, however, are 12-1 in Auburn Arena, the lone loss to Kentucky.

The road is tough for most SEC teams. As a league, the road record is 12-37, and that's with Kentucky 5-0 on the road. Alabama is 1-3 in away conference games.

Grant attributes the difficulty of SEC road play to the "league being very good. Everyone wants to protect his home court. It speaks to the quality of teams in the SEC."

There have been rumors for the past week or so that Mitchell was on the edge of suspension. He did not start against Ole Miss, but came off the bench to score 14 points in the double overtime win over the Rebels in Tuscaloosa Saturday night. Mitchell ranks second on the team in both scoring (13.1 points per game) and rebounding (7.0).

Grant said that Bama's starting line-up against the Tigers would be determined after Monday's practice. That starting lineup, however, has not been the critical issue. Against Ole Miss the Tide played 11 men with 10 of them getting double figures minutes playing time. Alabama's bench has averaged 28.3 points per game over the past three games. One of those bench players against Mississippi was Mitchell, who had 14 points in a reserve role.

Grant said that he is seeking consistency of play, which may account for Bama playing a number of men each game. By this time of the season, many teams have settled into a rotation of fewer players, seven or eight. In searching for consistency, Grant said, it is sometimes necessary to look at more combinations. "We preach (to the players) that if you have an opportunity, you have to be prepared."

Alabama continues to be more prepared and more consistent on defense than on offense. The Tide makes only 45.8 per cent of its field goals and only 26.5 per cent on three-pointers. Bama remains one of the nation's top defensive team, giving up 58.3 points per game, which is 14th in the nation, and allowing opponents to shoot only 37.6 per cent from the field, which is seventh nationally.

Grant said he is "impressed" with Auburn. He said the Tigers have been strong defensively, mixing up their schemes and using defense to create offense. "They are playing well," he said.

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