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November 14, 2012TUSCALOOSA | For University of Alabama basketball veterans such as Andrew Steele, a trip to the most storied arena in basketball is just another business trip.
"We were there two years ago (for the NIT finals) and it was great, but now we have been there," Steele said as he and his teammates prepared to depart for tonight's game against Oregon State at Madison Square Garden. The game is part of a doubleheader in the 2K Classic. Villanova will face Purdue in the other game, with Alabama meeting either the Boilermakers or Wildcats on Friday, depending on tonight's results.
UA coach Anthony Grant was even more direct when asked Wednesday if the Crimson Tide were "going to do anything fun" in New York City.
"Yes," Grant responded. "We are going to play basketball."
Basketball has been fun so far for the Crimson Tide, which is off to a 2-0 start after two home games in the 2K Classic. The season has been especially fun for sophomore guard Trevor Lacey, leading Alabama in scoring at 19.0 points per game and shooting 70 percent from 3-point range.
The Beavers are also off to a 2-0 start with wins over Niagara and New Mexico State in their two 2K Classic home games. Ahmad Starks, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, is off to an even more sizzling start than Alabama's Lacey, earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors by averaging 25.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in Oregon State's two wins. Starks had 33 of his team's 71 points in the 71-62 win over New Mexico State last Sunday, playing all 40 minutes.
"We needed someone to put our team on their shoulders offensively, and Aaron did that," Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said.
Angus Brandt, a 6-10 center from Australia, anchors Oregon State on the inside, averaging 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in the first two games. Alabama, meanwhile, hopes its inside game will be bolstered by the recuperation of sophomore power forward Nick Jacobs, who was slowed in the Crimson Tide's first two games by a sprained ankle, playing just 12 minutes in each game.
Robinson, now in his fifth year as the head coach at Oregon State, is the older brother of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.