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No. 14 Alabama out to avenge earlier setback to No. 4 Tennessee



When No. 4 Tennessee and its elite defense hosted No. 14 Alabama and its top-ranked scoring offense on Jan. 20, it was a decisive victory for the defense.The Crimson Tide hope to have a better handle on the Volunteers on Saturday night when the teams meet again, this time in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with first place in the Southeastern Conference at stake.Coming off a 103-88 win Wednesday night at Ole Miss, where it hit triple figures for the ninth time this season, Alabama (20-8, 12-3 SEC) enters averaging a Division I-best 91.5 points per game. It got nowhere near that total in Knoxville, where Tennessee (22-6, 12-3) forced 22 turnovers, held it to 4 of 21 from the 3-point arc and came up with 15 steals in a 91-71 rout.It was the lowest-scoring game of the season for the Tide, which have topped 80 in each of the past nine games. That includes Wednesday night’s victory, which featured 26 points from Mark Sears. Hofstra transfer Aaron Estrada also had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the win.”He’s getting comfortable in the offense, figuring out where to get his shots, when he can attack,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of Estrada. “I keep telling him he needs to stop passing up open 3s. He deserves to have a good game because he’s been playing so hard.”The Tide trailed 42-39 before exploding for 64 second-half points. They made 15 of 37 3-pointers and forced 14 turnovers while committing only eight, a bit surprising as they really haven’t been a team that creates a ton of turnovers.Where Alabama wins its games is with lots of offense. Sears is scoring 20.6 per game, while Estrada (13.3), Grant Nelson (12.3) and Rylan Griffen (11.6) are also averaging double-figure points.Meanwhile, Tennessee started an unforgiving stretch to end its regular season Wednesday night by stopping No. 11 Auburn 92-84 in Knoxville. SEC Player of the Year favorite Dalton Knecht scored 25 of his game-high 39 points in a 12-minute stretch of the second half to put away the Tigers.