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November 26, 2012TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama men's basketball team hopes to continue a memorable November tonight when it hosts Lamar - and hopes to be closer to full strength when it does so.
Sophomore forward Rodney Cooper missed last Friday's win over Charleston Southern due to shoulder tendinitis, and it is not known if he will be available tonight. If not, Alabama (5-0) will once again have nine scholarship players available.
Cooper's absence affected Alabama, especially in the areas of perimeter shooting and pressure defense, but one positive in his absence was the play of 7-foot-1 center Carl Engstrom. The junior from Sweden scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds, affecting the game differently than Cooper but having his best all-around performance at Alabama.
"Carl came in and was extremely active," Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant said after the Charleston Southern game. "It we good to see him go after shots on the defensive end - alter shots, block shots, change shots. He was aggressive rebounding the ball, which is also good to see."
The main catalyst in Alabama's last two games, however, has been junior point guard Trevor Releford. Over the past two games, Releford has accounted for 47 points (23.5 per game), and has shot 15 of 25 (60 percent) from the floor and 10 of 13 (77 percent) from 3-point range.
"(Releford) is shooting the ball with a lot of confidence right now," Grant said. "When he does that, he is extremely difficult to guard."
Alabama would cap off a second straight perfect November under Grant with a win tonight. The Crimson Tide narrowly missed moving into the Associated Press Top 25 this week, finishing at the top of the "receiving votes" category on the strength of its wins over Villanova and Oregon State in the 2K Classic in New York.
The Cardinals are coached by former Texas Tech coach Pat Knight, the son of college coaching legend Bobby Knight. Lamar won 23 games and earned an NCAA Tournament berth last season but is in rebuilding mode with nine newcomers, including six freshmen, on the roster. One of those freshmen, forward Rhon Mitchell, leads the Cardinals in scoring (11.0) and rebounding (6.0).