Alabama-Auburn try to build on dramatic weekend wins
Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
AUBURN, Ala. — Confidence will be a big issue entering No. 12 Alabama's visit to Auburn tonight.
The Crimson Tide got a big boost with a come-from-behind win over Georgia last Saturday, but the team's two previous SEC road games quickly turned disastrous.
The Tigers (12-8, 2-3) ended an 0-for-15 stretch against ranked teams with a win over then-No. 22 Tennessee last week but has lost seven meetings in a row with Alabama (15-3, 2-2).
Auburn coach Jeff Lebo is far more concerned about the effects of the Tide's rally from a 15-point halftime deficit to beat the Bulldogs than the previous road performances.
"They're a very tough, experienced team and they're coming off an emotional game," Lebo said Monday. "Sometimes those type wins can catapult you to three or four more because it just gives you confidence."
Then again, Alabama and the other SEC Western Division teams have had few confidence-inspiring road games lately. The division teams are a combined 0-for-14 in SEC games away from home.
The Tide has been hit especially hard in two SEC road trips. Mark Gottfried's team lost 94-73 at Vanderbilt last week and also fell 88-61 at Arkansas earlier this month.
Gottfried also points out his team's road win over North Carolina State, though.
"We went down to North Carolina State and they had 14-15,000 people there and we played very well," he said.
"We just haven't done it enough times this year. We've got to get better and more consistent away from home. Different teams react different ways.
"I've had some teams here that have been good on the road and some teams that have struggled on the road. I'm not sure there's a magic formula either way."
Starting fast would be a big step. The Tide started out down 15-0 against the Bulldogs and trailed by 24 points at halftime at Arkansas.
"That's been an issue for us a few times," Gottfried said. "We've got to come out and start the game with a little more energy."
The Tigers, meanwhile, couldn't muster a follow-up win after the 83-80 win over Tennessee, losing by 11 points at Mississippi State.
"That gave us some confidence," Lebo said of the victory. "We played for the most part pretty well against Mississippi State."
Auburn will need that confidence this week. No. 1 Florida visits on Saturday.
The Tigers have already matched last season's win total. And the emergence of forwards Quan Prowell and Josh Dollard gives Auburn a different look than the smaller teams fielded in recent meetings with Alabama.
That helps explain why Gottfried thinks Lebo's team is "much improved" over last season.
"You've got two post players that can both make the perimeter shot," Gottfried said. "You've got to go out there and guard them. That stretches you out a little bit more than normal."
Tide point guard Ronald Steele's sore right knee still isn't 100 percent, but it didn't keep him from hitting the game-winning shot at the buzzer against Georgia.
Plus, all five Alabama starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
"They've got a lot of parts," Lebo said. "Their starting five are as good as any starting five in the country. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways."
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