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February 10, 2012

Tide needs another big win against LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. | There was a little more fanfare when the Alabama men's basketball team made its last visit to Louisiana for a matchup with LSU.

A month ago, it was football and the national championship implications were direct. This time it is basketball, and the ramifications are more subtle - but still important.

The Crimson Tide has quietly fashioned a three-game winning streak in SEC play and positioned itself into a potential NCAA Tournament bid. Alabama was solidly in the field in Friday projections by CBS (as a No. 7 seed) and ESPN (as a No. 8 seed), but UA needs to keep winning games like tonight's 6 p.m. contest with the Tigers, now 3-6 in the SEC.

Alabama handled the Tigers easily in Tuscaloosa last month, winning 69-53 behind a 20-point performance from Trevor Releford.

"LSU will be a different team at home," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said on Friday. "They beat Marquette at home. They are 3-1 in the SEC at home and the only loss is to Kentucky.

"The last time we played them we had some success and I think that we shot 50 percent from the field," Grant said. "So we will have to be ready for some defensive adjustments that they will make, and make sure that we do a better job of taking care of the basketball because we had 15 turnovers in that game.

The Crimson Tide will be without its second-leading scorer for a second straight game. Junior forward Tony Mitchell remains on an indefinite suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team," Grant said. Mitchell did not make the trip to LSU but could rejoin the team at a later date.

LSU coach Trent Johnson said Alabama would be a difficult opponent even without Mitchell.

"When you are as deep and athletic as they are, someone is just waiting in the wings to step up."

Charles Hankerson has been one of the players to step up in that role, averaging 12 points per game off the bench in the last two UA wins.

From an offensive standpoint, (Hankerson) is a guy that has the ability to stretch a defense. He's done well in terms of improving his body and understanding what he's got to do on the court. He's a veteran guy, so knowing what he's got to do, having a year and a half under his belt in the system and the offensive ability to stretch a defense, he's done a good job."

JaMychal Green currently leads the Tide with 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. LSU is led by Justin Hamilton's 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. In the first meeting between the teams, Hamilton had 12 points and six rebounds.

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

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