Alabama hopes to start second half of SEC play strong in trip to the Jungle

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AUBURN, Ala. (WHNT) — The Alabama Crimson Tide might find themselves in an uncomfortable place on Wednesday night when they travel to take on in-state rival Auburn in round two of the Iron Bowl of basketball.

The Tide will be on the road, in a rowdy environment, and playing against a team desperately attempting to avoid being swept for a second straight season.

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Alabama has everything sitting in front of them as the second half of SEC play begins. The Tide hold sole possession of first place, but Nate Oats knows the squad could easily fall.

“Obviously, a big game. We put ourselves in good spot halfway through conference play but can all go backwards in a hurry if we don’t come out and play well in the second half of conference play,” said Oats. “Got three teams that are only a game back from us in the loss, between Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee, they’re right on our heels.”

A win for the Tide would put them in prime position to win the SEC Regular Season Championship. A loss would tie Alabama and Auburn for first place in the standings.

Alabama will return key role player, Nick Pringle, who will be available for the first time after “being away from the team,” according to Oats.

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Pringle is averaging 5.2 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. While the amount of time that Pringle will play is unknown, he provides the Tide with an extra depth piece heading into Neville Arena, a place Alabama has struggled in the Oats’ era.

“He’ll be available to play,” said Oats. “I’m not sure how much he’ll play but he will be available to play.”

Nate Oats is 2-2 at Neville as Alabama’s head coach. The arena, commonly referred to as the Jungle, has become one of the rowdiest environments in the country. Oats says it’s difficult to play there because of how it affects getting play calls into players and how hard the crowd makes it to even think.

“They are loud and they are right on top of you. It’s hard to hear yourself even think, it’s hard to get play calls, it’s hard for players to communicate on defense. It’s loud and it’s great, I love it. It reminds me a lot of high school gyms, just with a lot more people in there. You pack 2,000 people in a high school gym and get a similar setting. Now you pack whatever they sit, what is it? eight, nine, 10 thousand whatever it is and the place gets loud,” Oats said.

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The Alabama head coach believes his team responded well in the first meeting, but knows his team will have to play better on the road as Auburn is a different team at home. The Tigers are the last remaining undefeated SEC team at home and will have their crowd extra juiced.

One of the things Oats noted is how close those juiced students sit to the floor in Neville Arena, giving the Tigers a difficult environment.

“It’s one of the best environments in all of college basketball. Their fans do a great job giving them a home-court advantage and their players play up to it,” Oats said. “It’ll be a fun night regardless of the outcome, you got pretty even-matched teams going at it.”

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