TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Alabama men's basketball team will return to Coleman Coliseum where it will take on the Mercer Bears on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will mark just the second home game for the Crimson Tide in the month of December, and the first since taking on Dayton back on Dec. 5.
"We are looking forward to being back on our home court and looking forward to playing Saturday against a good Mercer team," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "We are coming off a win on the road against another very good team in Texas Tech. There were some things we were able to take away from that game, both positive and learning opportunities. Our focus has really been about the things we need to do better as a basketball team and that's where we are at right now. We have a quick turnaround for this game against Mercer. They have played a challenging schedule and have had success on the road this season. It will be a game that's very challenging for our guys. We will start to familiarize our guys with Mercer (Friday), but our focus has really been on what we need to do and what gives us the best chance to be successful."
Most recently, the Crimson Tide (7-3) snapped a three-game losing streak by capturing a 66-62 road win at Texas Tech last Saturday. Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey (21 points) and junior guard Trevor Releford (17 points) combined for 38 of UA's 66 points in the victory.
Alabama's backcourt continues to lead the way this season. Releford, who was just named to the 2013 Bob Cousy Award Watch List earlier in the week, tops the team in points (16.0 ppg) and steals (20). He is also one of the top three-point shooters (41.9 percent) and free throw shooters (86.5 percent) in the Southeastern Conference.
Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game and leads the team with 3.5 assists a game. The Huntsville, Ala., native tops the Southeastern Conference in three-point field goal percentage (48.9) and ranks sixth in treys made per game (2.3).
Meanwhile, sophomore guard Rodney Cooper contributes 12.2 ppg and leads the team in rebounds per game (4.3) and field goals attempted (102).
Mercer (6-6) comes into Saturday's showdown after falling to SEC rival Georgia, 58-49, last Wednesday in Athens, Ga. The loss snapped the Bears' two-game winning streak.
Leading the way for Mercer is senior guard Travis Smith, who averages a team-leading 9.9 points per contest. He also tops the squad in field goals made (40) and attempted (102), as well as minutes per game (27.3).
As a team, Mercer has 11 players who average at least 10 minutes per game on the season. The Bears are only allowing opponents to score an average of 54.8 points a game, which ranks eighth in the nation. Furthermore, opponents are shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor and 29.7 percent from beyond the arc against the Mercer defense.
Alabama and Mercer will play for the ninth time in series history when the teams take the floor on Saturday afternoon, with the Crimson Tide owning a 6-2 advantage. Saturday's contest will be the first meeting between the Bears and Crimson Tide since Dec. 23, 2009, when Alabama captured a 90-71 victory in Tuscaloosa.
All tickets be on sale for $8 to the general public as part of the Holiday Break promotion.
The game will be televised on CSS and can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink on the call.
Fans can also follow the live action with in-game tweets on the team's official Twitter page @AlabamaMBB.Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant Quotes
On Mercer :
"I've had a chance to watch them on film and I am really impressed. They have a deep team and are extremely well-coached. Defensively, they have done a great job on the year holding opponents to under 40 percent from the floor and about 55 points a game. They are forcing teams into about 18 turnovers a game, so I am very impressed with their defense. They have a great system and there are a lot of different things they do from within that system. They have good balance on their team and when you look at how competitive they have been this season, this will be a challenging game for us. We have a short turnaround, so we have to understand what we have to do in order to be successful."
On first half at Texas Tech:
"I thought we got off to a good start and I thought Trevor (Lacey) did a good job of being aggressive. They came out in zone and we were able to knock down a couple of shots. Defensively, we started out in zone and I think that bothered them a little bit. It allowed us to get some transition opportunities. It was good to see our guys be aggressive and be able to sustain that pretty much throughout the half."
On snapping the team's three-game losing streak:
"I thought our guys really showed great composure during the losing streak. They have really listened to us in terms of them needing to some things better as a team. I felt like all the way through we've understood what we needed to do. I think they've tried to do the things that myself or our staff have asked them to do. It's always rewarding when the outcome is in your favor. The other thing I'll say is that I think our guys realize that we need to play better in the second half. There were some things we didn't do in the second half that almost cost us."Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey
On what the win at Texas Tech meant to the team:
"It's a great confidence boost. No one likes to lose and from the three-game losing streak, we learned we need to come out with energy and stay aggressive throughout the game. We want to play the entire 40 minutes the way we started the game at Texas Tech."
On the challenges of playing as many minutes as he did against Texas Tech:
"I didn't realize I played that many minutes until after the game. It was a challenge the way the pressure the ball and the way we defend. But I feel like that our preseason conditioning has us prepared for whatever we have to face."
On team keeping its composure down the stretch:
"I feel like as a team, we were going to do whatever it took not to lose. We've been in those situations before, whether it was in practice or in games. We knew we had to take care of the ball and make free throws and that's what we did."