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Turn of the Tide (cont.)

Posted: Thursday March 8, 2007 5:32PM; Updated: Thursday March 8, 2007 5:55PM
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But the Tide could not maintain the same level of play in the SEC. Alabama lost by more than 20 points on the road four times in the SEC and blew a 20-point lead at Florida. With its NCAA tournament hopes on the line, Alabama slept through a 91-67 loss at Mississippi State in the regular-season finale that left Gottfried publicly questioning his team's toughness.

"That was a game where we felt like we lied down and took the loss," Hendrix said. "Today, Kentucky was just better. We went down fighting."

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Gottfried pretty much acknowledged his team had played its way out of the NCAAs, but promised it would regroup.

"Our goals from the start of the year were not to be in the NIT, obviously, but this team's had to overcome a lot," he said. "We've had moments throughout the year where this team's been very good. You saw these snapshots of the team, but we just never put it all together for a lot of obvious reasons."

To their credit, the Alabama players did their best to avoid excuses, but there was no denying what a healthy Steele has meant to this team in the past.

"It is not an excuse, but you know with healthy guys on the court ... you are looking at maybe the best player in the country when he's 100 percent, to probably less than 50 percent," said Hendrix, who had 21 points and seven rebounds on Thursday. "We never knew what we were going to get, so that was frustrating. You think about if we had him at 100 percent, how good we could have been. But that is not an excuse."

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