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January 21, 2011TUSCALOOSA _ Yes, the University of Alabama men's basketball teams knows exactly what it's getting into Saturday.
The Crimson Tide is coming off its biggest win of the season, 68-66 against talented No. 12 Kentucky, but is still 1-7 away from Coleman Coliseum.
Auburn will host its BCS national championship celebration earlier in the day at nearby Jordan-Hare Stadium, and then at halftime will enjoy the annual presentation of the James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy for beating Alabama in football this past season.
It's also simply Alabama-Auburn (5 p.m. CSS), which is usually more than enough motivation for everyone involved.
"We like games like this," junior forward JaMychal Green said. "The crowd is going to be on us. We're just going to have to laugh and continue to play."
Having won six of its last seven games to improve to 11-7, the Crimson Tide is atop the SEC West looking to be 4-1 in league play for the first time since 2004-5 season. Heading into its bye, a win would help strengthen its standing heading into the home game against LSU on Jan. 29th, preceding a difficult two-week stretch of Mississippi State, at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.
But this is a little different as Alabama is going from being the hunters to the hunted, and Auburn would like nothing better than to pull off the upset.
"I know it's going to be crazy, they have something going on down there," senior guard Senario Hillman said with a coy smile. "We're not too worried about it."
Overall, Auburn is last in league scoring, averaging 62.7 points per game, while UA's defense has surrendered just 57.3 points per game, the seventh best average in the nation. The Crimson Tide is also first in points allowed per possession (.83), and third in opponent's field-goal percentage.
Playing its second game in four days on Thursday, Auburn's defense held Florida to the fewest points scored in Billy Donovan's 15 years in Gainesville, and the Gators were 2 of 22 from 3-point range before making their final three attempts to finally secure the 45-40 victory.
Although the 7-11 Tigers (0-4 in SEC play) have lost to Samford, Campbell, Jacksonville and Presbyterian, and scored just six points in the first half against LSU, they also pulled off a 65-60 victory against Florida State nine days before the Seminoles upset No. 1 Duke.
"That tells you that they can be a good team," Green said. "They're a streaky team and when they're on, they're on.
But while on paper the emotional edge appears to be all in Auburn's favor, it may actually be Alabama's.
The Crimson Tide has lost four of the last five meetings and four straight on the Plains, including last year's 58-57 loss when Lucas Hargrove hit the game-winning free throw with 3 seconds left.
While Coach Anthony Grant pointed out that it's a "Totally different game this year" because Auburn brought in Coach Tony Barbee, has a completely different roster and opened its new arena, his players don't necessary look at it the same way.
"I think about it every day," Green said about last year's loss. "I fouled out of that game and didn't play well.
"This is for revenge. We want to win."