Alabama’s men’s basketball team broke a three-game losing streak with a road win at Texas Tech earlier this week. On Saturday in Coleman Coliseum, the Crimson Tide will host Mercer, which will be trying to get back on the winning track after having lost at Georgia on Wednesday night.
Alabama will host Mercer at 1 p.m. CST Saturday in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide improved to 7-3 with its win over Texas Tech in Lubbock. The Mercer Bears are now 6-6.
Saturday’s game will mark just the second in Tuscaloosa for Bama in December. The Dec. 5 game against Dayton was a disheartening Bama loss.
Alabama and Mercer will play for the ninth time in series history when the teams take the floor on Saturday afternoon, with the Crimson Tide owning a 6-2 advantage. Saturday’s contest will be the first meeting between the Bears and Crimson Tide since Dec. 23, 2009, when Bama had a 90-71 victory in Tuscaloosa.
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The game will be televised on CSS.
“We are looking forward to being back on our home court and looking forward to playing Saturday against a good Mercer team,” Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said. “We are coming off a win on the road against another very good team in Texas Tech. There were some things we were able to take away from that game, both positive and learning opportunities. Our focus has really been about the things we need to do better as a basketball team and that’s where we are at right now.”
Alabama had lost consecutive games at Cincinnati, at home to Dayton, and to VCU before beating Texas Tech 66-62 in Lubbock Wednesday night. It was a game in which the Tide roared out to a big lead, had a 20-point lead midway through the second half, and then had to hold on against a Texas Tech charge to get the win. Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey (21 points) and junior guard Trevor Releford (17 points) combined for 38 of UA’s 66 points in the victory.
Grant said, “I thought our guys really showed great composure during the losing streak. They have really listened to us in terms of them needing to some things better as a team. I felt like all the way through we’ve understood what we needed to do. I think they’ve tried to do the things that myself or our staff have asked them to do. It’s always rewarding when the outcome is in your favor. The other thing I’ll say is that I think our guys realize that we need to play better in the second half. There were some things we didn’t do in the second half that almost cost us.
“We have a quick turnaround for this game against Mercer,” Grant said. “They have played a challenging schedule and have had success on the road this season. It will be a game that’s very challenging for our guys. We will start to familiarize our guys with Mercer (Friday), but our focus has really been on what we need to do and what gives us the best chance to be successful.”
Grant said he has been impressed in looking at film of Mercer.
“hey have a deep team and are extremely well-coached,” Grant said. “Defensively, they have done a great job on the year holding opponents to under 40 per cent from the floor and about 55 points a game. They are forcing teams into about 18 turnovers a game, so I am very impressed with their defense. They have a great system and there are a lot of different things they do from within that system. They have good balance on their team and when you look at how competitive they have been this season, this will be a challenging game for us. We have a short turnaround, so we have to understand what we have to do in order to be successful.”
Alabama’s backcourt continues to lead the way this season. Releford, who was just named to the 2013 Bob Cousy Award Watch List earlier in the week, tops the team in points (16.0 points per game) and steals (20). He is also one of the top three-point shooters (41.9 per cent) and free throw shooters (86.5 per cent) in the Southeastern Conference.
Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game and leads the team with 3.5 assists a game. The Huntsville native tops the Southeastern Conference in three-point field goal percentage (48.9) and ranks sixth in treys made per game (2.3).
Meanwhile, sophomore guard Rodney Cooper contributes 12.2 ppg and leads the team in rebounds per game (4.3) and field goals attempted (102).
Mercer (6-6) comes into Saturday’s showdown after falling to SEC rival Georgia, 58-49, last Wednesday in Athens, Ga. The loss snapped the Bears’ two-game winning streak.
Leading the way for Mercer is senior guard Travis Smith, who averages a team-leading 9.9 points per contest. He also tops the squad in field goals made (40) and attempted (102), as well as minutes per game (27.3).
As a team, Mercer has 11 players who average at least 10 minutes per game on the season. The Bears are only allowing opponents to score an average of 54.8 points a game, which ranks eighth in the nation. Furthermore, opponents are shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor and 29.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Mercer defense.