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December 31, 2012

NOTEBOOK: Wisconsin is likely 2015 Cowboys Classic foe

TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama's 2015 opponent in the annual Cowboys Classic is expected to be Wisconsin, Tidesports.com has learned.

Although the deal is not believed to have been finalized, indications are that the schools have informally agreed to play in what would be the Crimson Tide's second appearance in the game. Since 2009, the Cowboys Classic has produced marquee out-of-conference matchups at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, including Alabama's 41-14 thrashing of Michigan in the 2012 season opener.

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UA athletic director Mal Moore told Tidesports.com this month that Alabama would be returning to the venue.

Wisconsin ahtletic director and interim coach Barry Alvarez said months ago that a 2015 game against Alabama had been discussed but did not confirm it was a certainty or that it might be played at Cowboys Stadium.

However, Cotton Bowl officials, who help organize the Cowboys Classic, believe the matchup is all but set.

An Alabama-Wisconsin matchup would be just the second between the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten powers. The Badgers defeated Alabama 15-0 in 1928.

On a roll The Alabama women's basketball team will take a four-game winning streak into Southeastern Conference play. The Crimson Tide will start its conference schedule Thursday at Texas A&M in a 6 p.m. game.

Alabama (10-3) defeated Hawaii 44-43 on Sunday in Honolulu to win the championship in the Rainbow Wahine Invitational. Junior guard Shafontaye Myers was the tournament MVP and was joined by senior Alicia Mitcham on the all-tournament team.

"This was just one of those games we needed to grind out," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "We started off real sluggish, but I have to give Hawaii credit. The best thing I can tell you is we hung in there and found a way to win. Nobody really had a great game, but this was a good team win."

Jasmine Robinson led Alabama with 13 points. Myers added 10 points. Sophomore Kaneisha Horn pulled down a team-high eight rebounds and was also 7 for 10 from the free throw line.

Alabama started its winning streak in the wake of a 58-52 home loss to Wofford on Dec. 17. The Crimson Tide defeated Virginia 73-70 in double overtime at home, then reeled off three victories in Hawaii to win the tournament championship. UA beat Cincinnati, 58-47, and Long Island, 80-58, before defeating host Hawaii in the championship game.

UA's next home game will be Sunday at 2 p.m. at Foster Auditorium against Kentucky.

Looking for answers The UA men's basketball team (7-5) is coming off a 53-50 loss to Tulane on Sunday and has lost five of its last six games. Alabama has lost its last three home games - to Tulane, Mercer and Dayton - and includes road losses at Cincinnati and Virginia Commonwealth during the slump. The Crimson Tide's lone victory in the month of December came at Texas Tech.

Alabama's five losses came against teams with winning records. The teams that beat UA have a combined 51-17 mark, with Cincinnati and VCU either ranked or receiving votes in the Associated Press Top 25 at the time they played Alabama.

Alabama has used seven different starting lineups in 12 games, and different lineups in seven of the last nine games. Only sophomore guards Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph have held onto starting jobs for the entire season.

Alabama will finish out its non-conference schedule Saturday at 3 p.m. at home against Oakland. The game will be televised by CSS.

Nearing milestones Alabama junior guard Trevor Releford is 40 points short of the 1,000-point mark for his career. Releford has 960 points and can become the 46th player in UA men's basketball history to reach the milestone. He would also be just the seventh player in Crimson Tide history to reach at least 1,000 points and 140 steals in a career (he has 146).

Gymnasts prepare Alabama's two-time defending national champion gymnastics team took a short holiday break, with gymnasts returning to practice last weekend to prepare for the Jan. 11 season opener at Missouri.

Alabama enters the 2013 season with one of its most experienced teams in recent memory, with 15 veterans, including seven All-Americans. The Crimson Tide's four seniors, six juniors and five sophomores are joined by UA's smallest freshman class in more than a decade, comprised of rookies Lauren Beers and Carley Sims.

Alabama goes into the new season following another stellar semester in the classroom. A total of 15 gymnasts posted grade-point averages above 3.4 during the fall semester, and seven gymnasts - Beers, Ria Domier, Marissa Gutierrez, Kim Jacob, Ashley Priess, Ashley Sledge and Kayla Williams - earned perfect 4.0 GPAs.

Alabama will host two open practices during the first week of the New Year, including a balance beam and uneven bars workout on the main floor of Coleman Coliseum at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and a full practice at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the Crimson Tide's newly renovated Frances Smith practice facility. Access to both practices will be through the doors nearest the track and field stadium on the west side of the coliseum.

After its trip to Missouri, Alabama will open its 2013 home slate Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. against LSU. Season tickets are on sale now through the Alabama Athletic Ticket Office (205-348-2262) in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum, and online at RollTide.com.

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