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After a 94-73 loss to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, coach Mark Gottfried and his Alabama players host an improved Georgia team today. 'We definitely understand how good Georgia is and how good this league is,' Gottfried said.
AP photo by John Russell
After a 94-73 loss to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, coach Mark Gottfried and his Alabama players host an improved Georgia team today. "We definitely understand how good Georgia is and how good this league is," Gottfried said.

Tide basketball team
feels 'sense of urgency'

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

Three games into Southeastern Conference season, Alabama coach Mark Gottfried has had to pep his team up from consecutive road blowouts. First, the Tide lost 88-61 at Arkansas and then suffered a 94-73 drubbing from Vanderbilt on Wednesday.

This isn't the way the coach of the No. 9 Crimson Tide would like it, but he understands the two losses just make Saturday's 12:30 p.m. matchup with visiting Georgia that much more important.

"We need to bounce back, obviously, from a tough loss at Vanderbilt," Gottfried said. "We definitely understand how good Georgia is and how good this league is."

Georgia (11-5, 3-1 SEC) is considered by some coaches to be one of the most improved teams in the league.

The Bulldogs finished the last two seasons in last place in the SEC Eastern Division but have quality wins this year at Wake Forest and against Gonzaga.

They're coming off a last-second 67-64 win at Arkansas on Wednesday.

"We grew up a little and became a little more resilient in sticking with our guns and continuing to believe in ourselves in a very charged atmosphere which turned against us a few times in the second half," Georgia head coach George Felton said. "We grew up and gained the kind of confidence that you need in those kinds of moments."

Alabama (14-3, 1-2) is at a crossroad. The Crimson Tide is struggling to cope with large preseason expectations, road losses, injuries to star players, and the possibility of moving to two games under .500 in the league.

"There's more of a sense of urgency that we have to turn things around right now," Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix said. "We feel like whenever we play at home it gives us more advantage. But we have to correct troubles on the road."

Against Vanderbilt, preseason All-American point guard Ronald Steele shot 1-of-11 while scoring five points in 39 minutes.

Steele started the year with tendonitis in his knee, then sprained his ankle Dec. 6 at Notre Dame.

After his last game, Steele said that he didn't remember what being completely healthy felt like.

Against Georgia, Steele likely will be matched up against guard Levi Stukes, a lightning-quick perimeter player who could take advantage of Steele's injuries.

"(Ronald) gets frustrated," Gottfried said.

"Any player, the competitive part of you wants to play at your highest level, and he hasn't really been able to do that. He's had a great attitude through it, but there's no question at times. It would be frustrating for anybody."

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