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February 6, 2012

Mitchell suspended

TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama junior forward Tony Mitchell has been suspended from the Crimson Tide basketball team indefinitely due to "conduct detrimental to the team," according to head coach Anthony Grant.

At his Monday press conference, Grant said the decision to suspend Mitchell was made after Saturday's double-overtime win against Ole Miss.

Grant said the decision was based on "an accumulation" of things, not a single incident. Mitchell did not start in that game - the first time this season he was out of the starting lineup - but scored 14 points in 31 minutes of action. He also had to leave the game after a blow to the head, and twice left the bench to return to the training room in the second half before re-entering the game.

Although no length of the suspension was announced, Mitchell is not expected to travel to the team's game at Auburn tonight.

The 6-foot-6 junior has averaged 13.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game this season.

"It obviously hurts," junior forward Andrew Steele said. "He's such a big part of what we try to do. But it's a coach's decision and we just have to focus on doing what we have to do to get a win."

Alabama was a six-point favorite in tonight's game prior to Mitchell's suspension, but AU coach Tony Barbee told the Auburn-Opelika News that Mitchell's suspension "doesn't matter" in tonight's game.

"The bottom line is it doesn't mean a thing for this game," Barbee said following the Tigers' Monday practice. "In these rivalry games it doesn't matter the coaches, it doesn't matter the personnel that's on the floor. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if one team's ranked No. 1 in the country and one team is the worst in the land. It does not matter."

The Tigers are 3-1 at Auburn Arena with the only loss coming to Kentucky. The Tigers are coming off a 91-88 loss to Mississippi State last Saturday.

On how this Auburn teams differs from last season's:

"I'm impressed with the way they are playing," Grant said. "They've got a lot of new faces and Frankie Sullivan and Varez Ward. Those two guys together give them another dimension. A lot of other guys have returned and are playing well."

Sullivan, a junior guard from Uniontown, and 6-foot-8 forward Kenny Gabriel, are the Tigers' top scorers, each averaging 12.3 points per game.

Alabama has won two games in a row, home victories against Arkansas and Ole Miss, to pull back to .500 in SEC play, but Grant was continuing to look at various lineups even before the Mitchell suspension. UA used 11 different players in the overtime win against Ole Miss, getting solid bench production from Mitchell and Charles Hankerson in particular.

"Right now, for our team, I think it's a positive," Grant said. "The thing that we've got to get is consistency from our guys on the floor. If it means that we've got to look at different combinations on the floor, we have to be able to do that. I was proud of the effort the other day. We had guys that really stepped up when the opportunity presented itself. That's what we preach all the time. With this (Auburn) game, I don't have any preconceived notions of whether we are playing eight, 10 or whatever we're playing. I think our guys all have to be ready, if the opportunity presents itself to make contributions to our team, in order to be successful."

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.



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