SEC basketball tournament: Alabama focused on first-round foe Texas A&M
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama ended the regular season with five straight losses and enter this week's Southeastern Conference tournament playing its worst basketball of the season.
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"I feel like the confidence in the locker room is probably bigger than ever, (even though) we lost five straight," Alabama freshman guard Collin Sexton said Tuesday. "So I feel like everybody's ready to play and will try to get this win Thursday."
Ninth-seeded Alabama (17-14, 8-10 SEC) enters Thursday's noon tip against No. 8 seed Texas A&M (20-11, 9-9) needing a win for any hope of making the NCAA tournament.
But as far as the Crimson Tide is concerned, there is no looking beyond the current mission -- simply securing a win in its second-round matchup in St. Louis.
"Our resume speaks for itself, OK? Yes, we have had some disappointing losses, but we've won a lot of high-level games," Johnson said. "We've beaten a lot of really good teams. As much as we've had a five-game losing streak, we had a four-game winning streak in arguably the toughest conference this year in basketball. ... All those things are facts, but the tournament that we're focusing on today is the SEC tournament and how we can finish with one more point than Texas A&M. And that's all we're worried about. The rest of it will take care of itself."
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Thursday's game against the Aggies will be the second straight matchup between the familiar foes after A&M held on for a 68-66 win Saturday in College Station, Texas. Alabama beat the Aggies 79-57 on Dec. 30 in Tuscaloosa.
"This year during conference play, (it's been proven) anybody can beat anybody," Johnson said, "and we've had our share of losses, but we've had our share of wins against really good teams."
The winner plays top-seeded Auburn in the tournament quarterfinals at noon Friday.
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"This is a new season for us," Johnson said. "It's coming at a great time. We obviously didn't end the SEC regular season like we wanted to, but this is a new opportunity, one that anything can happen."
Alabama practiced before boarding a flight to St. Louis Tuesday evening, with plans to practice in the Scottrade Center today.
The Tide could again be without the services of freshman wing Herbert Jones, who suffered a concussion in the first half last week against Florida and then missed the Texas A&M game.
Jones was medically cleared to participate in "some parts" of the contact portion of Tuesday's practice, Johnson said, but his availability for Thursday's game remains a up in the air.
"Don't know his availability yet, we're going to have a pretty tough practice today, so we'll see how much of that practice he can participate in and how he recovers," Johnson said
This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.