Tide Has Tough Task Vs. Gators

By now, almost every Alabama men's basketball team fan knows that the Crimson Tide is having a not-so-stellar season. At 8-9, the Crimson Tide is one of only two Southeastern Conference teams that does not have an overall winning record (South Carolina the other at 7-10).

But what Alabama does have is the longest home court-winning streak in SEC games among SEC teams. It goes back to last February 14 and is now at 14 straight conference wins in Coleman Coliseum.

What would really be something is if the Tide could get it to 15.

The last SEC team to defeat Bama in Tuscaloosa is next up for the Crimson Tide in Coleman Coliseum. The Florida Gators pinned a 61-52 defeat on Bama last Valentine's Day. In fact, the Gators have pretty much had their way with the Crimson Tide in recent years, winning the last seven meetings, and nine of the last ten and18 of the last 21.

And Florida is coming into Tuscaloosa with a nine-game winning streak and 15-2 overall record. The Gators are the only SEC team undefeated in league play at 4-0 and Florida is ranked sixth in the nation.

Alabama and Florida will tip off at 6 p.m. CST Thursday in Coleman Coliseum. ESPN2 will televise the game with Bama alum Rece Davis doing the play-by-play and legendary former Indiana Coach Bob Knight providing analysis.

Alabama leads the all-time series against the Florida, 73-62, but the Gators are 19-5 against the Tide under Coach Billy Donovan. Bama has an all-time record of 48-17 when playing the Gators in Tuscaloosa, including a record of 27-6 in Coleman Coliseum, but the Gators have won three straight in Tuscaloosa.

Florida's Coach Donovan is 12-2 in games he has coaches against his former assistant coaches, including having a 6-0 record against Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. Grant was an assistant to Donovan at Florida from 1996 through 2006.

Grant knows his team faces a challenge. "It's really impressive how they play on offense, their chemistry and their balance," Grant said. "Defensively, they are as good a team as I've seen all year."

While Alabama has been able to crow about its SEC home winning streak, there hasn't been much else to brag about for the Crimson Tide. Bama is 2-2 in SEC games. The most disappointing thing about the Tide this year, though, is that Alabama has not been able to win on the road. The Tide is 0-4 in true road games and 0-3 in games at neutral sites. Only Auburn among SEC teams has been so futile, although 10 league teams have losing road records.

No wonder Grant said, "We're excited about being home."

An interesting aspect to the game is that Florida is expected to start four seniors, players that have been to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament the past three years.

With Alabama coming off its eighth straight road loss and fifth straight SEC road loss (going back to last season), it's not easy to find the good in Bama. There are some things, though.

Grant is 25-2 against SEC teams in Coleman Coliseum. That's a winning percentage of 92.6.

Senior guard Trevor Releford needs just eight points to become the 13th player in Alabama men's basketball history to reach the 1,600-point plateau for his career.

In SEC games only, Shannon Hale ranks second in field goal percentage (57.1) and 20th in scoring average (13.3) in the conference. Grant said, "Shannon had done a good job stepping up. He's had good spurts here and there, maybe a half. The next step is for him to put together a whole game against an SEC opponent."

Guards Retin Obasohan (2.4 steals per game) and Releford (also 2.4) rank first and second in the SEC in steals per game and the 4.8 average ranks fifth in the nation among duos on a team.

Releford leads Alabama in scoring at 18.3 points per game, which ranks seventh in the league. Obasohan is also in double figures at 12.2.

Florida is led by senior Casey Prather at 17.3 points per game, senior Scottie Wilbekin at 12.7, sophomore Michael Frazier II at 11.7, and senior Patric Young at 10.9.

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