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TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2007
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Tide aims for 8th straight over AU
Tigers' Lebo still looking for
first win over in-state rivals

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

When Auburn guard Frank Tolbert looked at Alabama's starting lineup, he noticed something a little different about the Crimson Tide than most other opponents the Tigers have faced.

"I was reading all the bios and all of them are in double digits, and that's the first I've seen of all the teams I've played," Tolbert said.

"That's different than all the other teams."

It won't exactly be the Iron Bowl, but one team will look to continue its streak of dominance over the other Tuesday at 8 p.m. when 12th-ranked Alabama (15-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) aims for its eighth straight win against its in-state rival at Auburn (12-8, 2-3).

"We've been close a couple of times but haven't been able to get over the hump," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, who is 0-6 against the CrimsonTide.

"They're very good, and they can beat you in a variety of ways."

Lebo named one of those ways, speaking glowingly Monday about Alabama's dynamic forward, Alonzo Gee.

In Alabama's last game, a 78-76 come-from-behind victory against Georgia, Gee finished with a team-high 21 points, and kept the Tide from falling hopelessly behind the Bulldogs with 13 first-half points.

"He's a pretty good athlete," Tolbert said. "He's an explosive jumper can shoot the ball from inside and out.

"He's a great offensive rebounder."

While Auburn will look to contain Alabama's athleticism — Lebo also said that at least four of Alabama's five starters are NBA material — the Tide will need to protect itself from itself.

The CrimsonTide has lost by a combined 38 points in both of its SEC road contests this season.

Against Arkansas and Vanderbilt, Alabama trailed early by wide margins and never got back into the game.

The Razorbacks put the Tide in a quick 14-0 hole, while the Commodores built a 54-37 lead by halftime.

So what will Alabama do to guard against the road woes it has suffered this season?

"We went down to N.C. State and they had 14,000 or 15,000 there and we played very well," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. "We just haven't done it enough times this year.

"We have to become more consistent away from home. I've had some teams that have been really good, and some that haven't.

"I'm not sure there is a magic formula."

It helps Alabama that guard Ronald Steele recaptured some of his form from last season during the Tide's Saturday win over Georgia.

Steele, who has struggled with knee and ankle injuries, showed more assertiveness, driving to the basket and hitting the game winning shot with no time remaining on the clock.

"It's one of those games where you can't pay any attention to the records whenever you play this game," Steele said.

"It's a rivalry game. We all know each other.

"We all grew up playing against each other, so it's always a tough game."

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