Alabama (6-2) at Virginia Commonwealth (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 15, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Siegal Center (7,617) -- Richmond, Virginia. Television: CBS College Sports. Home Record: Alabama 4-1, VCU 3-1. Away Record: Alabama 0-1, VCU 2-0. Neutral Record: Alabama 2-0, VCU 1-2. Conference Record: Alabama 0-0, VCU 0-0. Series Record: Alabama leads, 4-0.
GAME NOTES: Anthony Grant makes his return to Richmond to face his former team for the first time when his Alabama Crimson Tide and the Virginia Commonwealth Rams tangle at the Siegal Center.
Grant, who coached VCU to a 76-25 record in three seasons from 2006-09, will try to guide his current squad to a much needed victory in this one. Alabama fell to 6-2 on Dec. 5 when it suffered an 81-76 setback to Dayton at home. The Crimson Tide are on a two-game losing slide after opening up the season with six wins in a row, including decisions over South Dakota State (70-67), Oregon State (65-62), and Villanova (77-55). The Crimson Tide's other loss came after Cincinnati's Cashmere Wright swished a jumper as time expired to lift the Bearcats to a thrilling 58-56 victory. Alabama is solid on both ends of the floor with a scoring average of 69.8 ppg on 45.2 percent shooting and a scoring defense mark of 58.1 ppg.
Shaka Smart's Rams earned their third consecutive decision on Dec. 7 by downing former CAA rival Old Dominion by 14 points on the road. VCU has a 6-3 record with its losses coming courtesy of Wichita State, Duke, and Missouri, all three of which made it to last season's Big Dance. The Rams notched an impressive 13-point win over Memphis and a 10-point victory over Belmont this season. VCU is scoring 74.7 ppg and allowing just 61.7 ppg.
This will be the fifth meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. Alabama has won all four previous encounters. The Tide earned a 72-64 win in Tuscaloosa last season. This one will be a showdown between the two coaches with the highest winning percentage in VCU history.
Alabama had a poor shooting performance its last time out as Dayton held it to 37 percent shooting from the field, including a 7-of-25 clip from 3-point range. The Crimson Tide had no answer for UD's Kevin Dillard, who scored 25 points and dished out six assists to help the Flyers convert 49.1 percent of their field goal attempts including 8-of-19 from distance. Trevor Lacey paced Alabama with 16 points and five assists but Rodney Cooper struggled to generate 12 points (4-of-15 FG). Trevor Releford is pacing the team with 16.9 ppg while Cooper and Lacey are tied for second with 14.1 ppg each. The Tide will be without key reserve Ronald Steele (sports hernia) for four to six weeks and center Carl Engstrom (knee) for the rest of the season, leaving Grant with only eight scholarship players.
VCU took a 43-30 lead into halftime of its tilt versus ODU after making 50 percent of its field goal attempts, including 8-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half. The Rams forced 15 turnovers in the contest and rode the hot shooting of Troy Daniels to the finish line. The senior guard was given the nickname "Trey" Daniels after tying the school record with eight makes from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 24 points. Sophomore guard Treveon Graham is the team's leading scorer with 15 ppg. Junior forward Juvonte Reddic (14.4 ppg) is converting 59.1 percent of his field goal attempts and pulling down 8.2 boards per contest. Junior guard Rob Brandenberg (10.3 ppg) and Daniels (10 ppg) are also contributing points in the double-figures range frequently.
The banged up Tide have a lot to overcome in this one against a very formidable opponent. VCU is dangerous due to its depth that makes it nearly impossible to defend. The Rams seem to find a way to win the big games under Smart, but they are not going to have a cakewalk on Saturday versus Alabama.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Commonwealth 68, Alabama 64
12/15 10:32:54 ET