News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Reeling Tide not panicking

By Josh Cooper 340-2462

If there is a sense of fear in Alabama starting point guard Ronald Steele, it would be tough to see if in his outside demeanor.

The calm-eyed, 6-foot-1 preseason All-American is not about to go crazy over Alabama's 2-3 conference record, but at the same time, he will not be taking Arkansas (13-7, 2-4) lightly for Saturday's home game. Tipoff is 2 p.m.

"We understand it's a big game, but we're not going to panic and put our whole season on one game," Steele said. "It's a big game because we need a win in the league."

So far in SEC play, the Tide has been less than impressive. It started the season with a 27-point loss at Arkansas and has been blown out in two straight road games — 21 points at Vanderbilt and 24 points at Auburn.

Even at home, 12th-ranked Alabama (15-4) hasn't quite lived up to preseason hype. It beat LSU by 10 on Oct. 9, and needed a buzzer bucket by Steele against Georgia to win 78-76.

And in the Georgia game, Alabama trailed by as much as 19 points in the first half.

Is Alabama not as good as its No. 12 ranking? What's the problem?

"I think it's just a deep league," Steele said. "You can't pay attention to standings. If a team hasn't won, they can beat you at home or on the road."

Also, defense has been a problem for Alabama. The Tide has given up an average of 91.5 points in its three conference losses.

While Steele said coach Mark Gottfried has been more assertive this week with the team in practice, he said that the key is stopping other teams in transition.

Opponents have run the floor on Alabama in recent games and gained offensive confidence from easy baskets.

Vanderbilt had 19 points off Alabama turnovers, and Auburn outscored the Tide 18-6 off the fast break.

Foul trouble also plagues Alabama, something that Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix has had plenty of the past couple of games.

Against Georgia and Auburn, the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Hendrix had a total of 10 points.

"You just have to make sure that you are in position to make a defensive stop instead of being over too late," Hendrix said. "It's not just an individual thing, everyone has to be in the right position."

There also could have been an issue of payback after the first game the Tide played against the Razorbacks, but the team is downplaying it. It's the old moniker of "just another game."

"You can't look at it as a revenge game because you could be playing too much on emotion," Steele said. "We look at it as a big game because we need a win. We can't think about what happened last time."

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