March 8, 2009
Alabama coach Philip Pearson likes the way his team has been playing recently.
The Crimson Tide stepped up the scoring output in victories against Mississippi State (87-85) in double overtime, Arkansas (88-67) and Ole Miss (90-69).
Even though Alabama lost a 77-73 decision to rival Auburn, the point spread was closer than the last time the Crimson Tide lost to the Tigers (85-70) on Jan. 17.
"I thought we have been making some strides and progress," Alabama coach Philip Pearson said. "After winning three games in a row, we had a tough one (against Auburn). We need to see if we can elevate our level of play again to where we were."
Pearson hopes his squad has another good effort left for the regular season when it travels to play Tennessee today at 11 a.m. (WCBI) in Knoxville.
This is the third Sunday game the Crimson Tide has had this season.
After playing Auburn on Tuesday, Alabama took Wednesday off and had three days to get ready for the Volunteers.
"Our schedule has been a little bit quirky in my opinion," Pearson said. "We had a Tuesday game and we''ve had two of the three Thursday night games within the league. We''ve went from Tuesday to Sunday (this week). I liked having the off day (Wednesday)."
Alabama (16-13, 6-9 Southeastern Conference) has won four of 10 games since Pearson took over for Mark Gottfried, who resigned in January.
Alabama can still claim the fourth seed out of the West for the SEC Tournament if it beats Tennessee because Ole Miss lost to Mississippi State on Saturday. If the Rebels and Crimson Tide both end the regular season with 7-9 records, Alabama gets the No. 4 seed because it swept the series with Ole Miss.
The Crimson Tide now lead the SEC in 3-point percentage defense as opponents have shot just under 32 percent (198 of 622) from 3-point range against them.
Senior Alonzo Gee (15 ppg) and sophoore Senario Hillman (13.2 ppg) lead Alabama.
The Volunteers (19-10, 10-5) appeared to have played their way into the NCAA Tournament which did not look possible a couple of weeks ago.
Tennessee has won three straight games to clinch at least a share of the SEC Eastern Division and the East''s No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament. The Volunteers defeated Mississippi State 81-76, Florida 79-75 and South Carolina 86-70.
It is the belief of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl that the squad is playing to improve seeding at this point.
"These games have tremendous implications for tournament seeding, and the key to advancing is seeding in the tournament," Pearl said. "Just ask the four No. 1 seeds last year how important seeding is."
The top four seeds from each region advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in the history of the tournament.
Junior forward Tyler Smith (17.3 ppg) has warmed up for the Volunteers the last two games with 19 points against Florida and 22 against South Carolina. Junior post player Wayne Chism is fifth in the SEC with 8.1 rebounds per game and he scores 13.3 points per game.
Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson, the SEC Freshman of the Week, is not satisfied.
"We''re playing well right now and guys are playing together and sticking together as a team, but there''s always room for improvement," Hopson said. "There''s always room to push forward and get better."