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January 11, 2013The University of Alabama men's basketball team will take on Tennessee in its Southeastern Conference home opener this afternoon.
The Crimson Tide is coming off an 84-68 loss at No. 10 Missouri on Tuesday night in both teams' first SEC game. Junior guard Trevor Releford led three scorers in double figures with a career-high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor. He became the 46th UA player to record 1,000 points in his career.
Alabama tied the game with 18:23 left but couldn't finish strong. The players said they are working to fix their second-half lulls.
"I think we have to get in the mindset of being able to finish," guard Andrew Steele said. "Coach (Anthony Grant) always tells us it's going to be a 40-minute game, and I think we get in times where we relax a little too much."
This will be the third consecutive game Alabama will have Steele in the lineup. Steele, who recently recovered from a sports hernia, is the team's lone senior and a leader for the younger players. Grant said the team's practice efforts picked up immediately when Steele returned. Releford said Steele's leadership makes him a valuable asset.
"It's good having Drew out there on the floor. He's like a second coach because he knows the game well," Releford said.
The Volunteers opened the SEC slate with a 92-74 to Ole Miss on Wednesday in Knoxville, Tenn.
Junior guard Jordan McRae leads a trio of Volunteers who average double digit scoring with 12.7 points per game. He is also the Vols' top 3-point shooter, hitting 33.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes averages 11.6 points per game and leads the team in rebounding (7.8 per game), blocked shots (12) and field goal percentage (53.9). Junior guard Trae Golden adds 11.4 points per game and leads the team in assists (4.3 per game).
"Tennessee is a very disciplined and well coached team," Grant said. "We've got to do a great job at No. 1, taking care of the basketball and being able to handle their defensive pressure, and then we have to be able to bring some pressure of our own and bring the toughness that we need to give us the best chance to win."
Despite the team's struggles, Grant is still optimistic that they can turn it around. He called a stretch of six losses in eight games a part of "the process" to building a successful program.
"This is not a sprint, it's a marathon," Grant said. "We're trying to develop a program that can compete for championships. This is a part of the process that we've got to go through. Our focus right now is Tennessee."