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What Alabama Basketball Remembers About Previous Matchup with Houston

The Crimson Tide knocked off the Cougars last season, but now prepare for the return trip to face the No. 1 team.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of the peaks of Alabama basketball's season last year was a wild, intense 83-82 win over the Houston Cougars inside Coleman Coliseum in early December that came down to literally the final seconds. 

There are only five players on the roster who were on the team for that game last season and only four that played (Charles Bediako, Noah Gurley, Darius Miles and Jahvon Quinerly.) Nimari Burnett was watching from the bench with the ACL injury. But as No. 8 Alabama (7-1) prepares for the rematch with No. 1 Houston (9-0) this Saturday in Houston, Alabama head coach Nate Oats said those five guys remember that game well. 

"They understand the intensity Houston’s going to bring to the table," Oats said. 

Houston was coming off a Final Four run and on the way to a return trip to the Elite Eight. Alabama lost its next game at Memphis before sputtering with inconsistency down the stretch. 

Alabama's star freshman Brandon Miller had a high school game on the same night of the Crimson Tide's matchup with the Cougars last season, but caught the last few minutes when he got home. 

"One thing I really noticed is that they crashed the offensive glass really hard, and that they’re physical," Miller said Thursday. "And that’s exactly what these guys are telling me now.”

Alabama leads the country in rebounding, but the Cougars are the top defensive team in the country, only allowing 47.3 points per game. They are not the physically biggest roster, but consistently crash the glass are 11th in the country in offensive rebounds per game. 

Houston outrebounded the Crimson Tide 43 to 34 last season with a whopping 21 offensive rebounds, including nine from J'Wan Roberts. Alabama wants to make sure that doesn't happen this year. Roberts is now a junior for the Cougars

"I remember them just being relentless on the offensive glass," Gurley said. "On our first possession, defense was really good, but the game starts once they shoot the ball. And then they are really good defensively as well, so we’ve just got to make sure we take care of the ball. Can’t give them any opportunities, or when they’re in transition give them easy buckets."

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Gurley had eight points off the bench in the win last season. 

Oats said the coaching staff has showed the film from last year's game a little bit this week since both teams still have the same coaches, but have been more focused on what the Cougars have done this year, including their leading scorer Marcus Sasser. 

"He had some shots that he made on us last year that were pretty elite," Oats said. "We did a really good job defensively, and he would still hit a tough shot."

Sasser had 25 points for the Cougars in the loss last season and is averaging 16.9 points per game this season. Oats said that Alabama plans to switch up the matchups on Sasser defensively throughout the game. 

Alabama and Houston will tip off at 2 p.m. on ABC this Saturday. It will be the second time in three games the Crimson Tide has played a No. 1-ranked team and the first game played with both teams in the top-10 for Alabama since 2002. 

"We’re very excited just first and foremost playing another game," Gurley said. "They’re the No. 1 team, so that adds a little more to it, but we’ve still got to play every game the same way, approach every game the same way.”

See also:

How to Watch: No. 11 Alabama Basketball at No. 1 Houston

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