Tide faces first major road test in SEC/Big East Challenge

Alabama’s men’s basketball team will face its first true road test when it travels to Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 1 to take on the Bearcats in the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Crimson Tide and Bearcats both boast 6-0 records in the only matchup that features two undefeated teams, but Cincinnati has received more acclaim for its unblemished season so far. The Bearcats are ranked No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 16 in the USA Today’s Coaches Poll. But the Tide is rising and has received votes to be ranked in both polls, but it hasn’t broken into the Top 25 just yet.

Head coach Anthony Grant praised Cincinnati for its defensive style of play and showed respect to its storied basketball conference.

“Cincinnati is a team, from a defensive standpoint, that is long, athletic,” Grant said. “They’re a really good physical team. I think when most people think of Big East basketball, you think of physical basketball.”

Alabama has also made a name for itself with its defensive demeanor. Over the course of six games the Tide has held its opponents to 54.3 points per game and forced 109 turnovers. The Bearcats talented backcourt will attract a lot of the Tide’s attention in this meeting. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick and senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are regarded as one of the best backcourts in the Big East.

“I think they’ve got three guys that are veteran guys that are obviously leading them in scoring,” Grant said. “I think their backcourt, all of the starters, are shooting over forty percent from the three-point line. They’re a very good team.”

But Grant commended the rest of Cincinnati’s roster for the team’s success in the early portion of its schedule.

“Offensively, they’ve got a variety of guys that can score,” Grant said. “They play in transition really well. They play together really well. They’ve got a good balance.”

Alabama traveled to New York City to compete in the 2K Sports Classic earlier in November, but there was no actual home team to play against. Sophomore guard Levi Randolph said he and his teammates are excited about playing in a hostile environment on the road like Cincinnati.

“It’s always fun to play in different places, being able to play in front of different crowds.” Randolph said. “Playing in front of an away crowd is exciting.”

Grant said that his team his slowly returning to full strength and it will need to stay healthy as the Tide faces three away games in its next four contests.

Trevor Releford should be available after missing the game against Lamar with flu-like symptoms. Andrew Steele is still day-to-day.

Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2.

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