Tide looks to continue streak against struggling Vols

The Alabama men’s basketball team looks to continue rolling when it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday Jan. 26 to face the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Crimson Tide (12-6, 4-1 SEC) has won four-consecutive games, one of which came when it hosted Tennessee (9-8, 1-4) on Jan. 12. Alabama won that contest 68-65.

Head coach Anthony Grant said Tennessee’s record does not accurately reflect how good the Volunteers have been this season.

“They could be 4-1,” Grant said. “The thing that we’ve got to understand is we’re dealing with a team that’s, for a lack of a better cliché, probably a wounded animal, [and we’re] walking into their building right now.”

Grant said the team did not have a great practice session on Thursday, and he hopes his players approach this game with more intensity and hunger for success.

Senior guard Andrew Steele mirrored Grant’s stance and said his team needs to forget its win over Kentucky.

“We can’t focus too much on the past. We have won our last couple of games, but I don’t think that really affects us going forward,” Steele said. “I think we’ve got to stay focused on the task we have at hand and just take it one game at a time. We can’t get satisfied with winning a couple of games. We’ve got to understand there’s a bigger goal ahead of us.”

Steele’s presence on the court has certainly sparked his teammates this year. While he was out because of injury, the Tide went 2-5. However, when Steele has been a part of the active roster, Alabama is 10-1.

Tennessee possesses a weapon that fuels its roster, as well. Junior guard Jordan McRae is averaging 14.5 points per game, and Grant praised McRae for his impressive season thus far.

“He’s having an outstanding year,” Grant said. “I’d say right now, he’d probably be among the leading vote getters for Player of the Year in the league, just with the way he’s performing individually. He’s just a really good player.”

Grant emphasized that slowing down McRae could ultimately slow down the Vols.

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin and his coaching staff will wear “Suits and Sneakers” Saturday as a part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Coaches vs. Cancer weekend.

Martin is a cancer survivor, and his professional playing career was cut short because of a battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He is now in full remission.

Steele said winning in a place like Thompson-Boling Arena is difficult but possible.

“We haven’t lost there since I’ve been here, so I’m fully expecting for us to go up there and try to get a win,” Steele said. “But it’s a tough environment, it’s a great arena. It’s always a great atmosphere. Their crowd is really enthusiastic about their team, but for us, our preparations are pretty much the same. We’ve got to control what we can control.”

Grant said his players need to understand their abilities and identity as a team to succeed.

“I think it’s human nature and sometimes we have to fight that,” Grant said. “My expectations are for Andrew, and our veterans, to really step up and understand what we’ve got an opportunity to do here. As a coach, do I like it? No. Do I understand it? Yeah. We’ve got to fight that. We’ve got to understand who we are and what we’re walking into.”

The game will tip off at 1 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2.

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