It was not particularly unexpected that Alabama would beat Auburn. The Tigers may be the worst team in the Southeastern Conference. But the Crimson Tide had been expected to beat Auburn earlier this year, too, and didn’t. So while Wednesday’s 61-43 Bama win was not unexpected, it was important.
Trevor Releford led four Alabama players in double figures and the Tide held Auburn to only 30 per cent shooting to key a win in which Bama pulled away in the second half. Alabama out-scored the Tigers by 38-21 in the second period. The 38 points surpassed the 37 Alabama scored in an entire game in losing to the Tigers earlier this year.
The 43 points by Auburn was a season-low for the Tigers.
Releford had 21 points and Trevor Lacey 12 points, and two back-ups – Nick Jacobs and Retin Obasohan – 10 each. Jacobs also had 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Alabama improved to 19-9 on the season and 11-3 in Southeastern Conference games. Auburn fell to 9-19, including 3-12 in the SEC.
Alabama has its toughest challenge of the year Saturday when the Crimson Tide goes to Florida to take on the Gators in Gainesville. Tipoff is at noon EST (11 a.m. central time) with television coverage by ESPN.
Alabama made 13-28 field goals in the second half (46.4 per cent) and finished with 22-56 (39.3 per cent), including 5-24 (20.8 per cent) on three-point tries. Auburn made 15-50 field goals, including 2-15 (13.3 per cent) on treys. Free throws were essentially even, Bama 12-16, Auburn 11-14. The Tide had a 41-31 advantage in rebounding.
Rob Chubb was the only man in double figures for Auburn with 13 points, but the center had only four rebounds.
Alabama scored 15 points off 15 Auburn turnovers and the Tigers had 6 points off the Tide’s 11 turnovers. Bama outscored the Tigers in the paint, 30-22, in fast break points, 10-0, and on second chance points, 5-2.
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said he thought his team was “really locked in. I thought the improvement we made from 20 days ago showed.” It had been 20 days since Bama and Auburn had met in Auburn. He pointed out the Tide didn’t get rattled when Auburn closed a big Bama lead to only two points during a Tide dry spell in the first half.
“I think we’re a better team than we were 20 days ago,” Grant said. “I thought we had good energy level tonight, good focus, and it was a good win.”
Obasohan said, “It was a great feeling. Anytime I can help my team win.”
Alabama built a lead of 24 points at 59-25 on a three-point shot by Lacey with 4:23 to play in the second half and Bama led by a comfortable margin for almost the entire second period.
Alabama had a 23-16 lead at intermission. Ten minutes later Bama had a 23-point lead at 50-27.
A key to the Bama burst in the second half was the insertion of Obasahohn after Lacey picked up his third foul in the opening seconds of the second half. Obasahohn had a nice drive and layup to get the Tide scoring started in the second half, then an assist to Releford for a three-pointer that gave Alabama an 11-point lead at 28-17.
Obasahohn got a fast break layup and was fouled with 13:22 remaining and made the free throw. It was significant because the layup gave Alabama 37 points, the number scored in the loss at Auburn, and the free throw put the Tide over that number. Bama had a 38-21 lead, a 17-point margin.
The first half looked like déjà vu as the teams approached intrmission threatening to equal the futility of the earlier game this year when Bama held a 23-13 lead at Auburn. Bama got its 23, and the Tigers exceeded their homecourt effort by scoring 16.
Alabama went from 10:11 to 2:38, about seven and a half minutes, without scoring before Releford hit a three-pointer. Jacobs made two short shots, including one with just seven seconds remaining, to get the Tide out to its 23-16 halftime lead.
Auburn scored first, but it was matched quickly by Releford and moments later Lacey made a steal – one of three he had in the first half – and a layup to give Alabama the lead for good in the first half.
Bama led by as many as nine points at 13-4 and Auburn pulled to within two points at 15-13 with 6:20 to play. There was no more scoring until Releford hit his three-pointer with 2:42 to play.
TIDE NOTES: Unquestionably, the highlight of Wednesday night was a relatively unimportant event, the presentation of the ODK Sportsmanship Trophy which is presented from the losing team to the winning team in the Alabama-Auburn football game. It is, of course, nothing about sportsmanship. Tide Football Coach Nick Saban made remarks on behalf of the team.
In an earlier meeting this year in Auburn, Alabama had a 10-point lead at halftime (23-13, compared to 23-16 Wednesday night), but had a dismal second half and lost by 49-37 to the Tigers. Bama reached – and surpassed – the 37 points it made at Auburn with 13:22 to play when Retin Obasohan made a lay-up and a free throw to give Alabama a 38-21 lead.
In holding Auburn to 43 points, Alabama has now held 19 of 28 opponents this season under 60 points and has held 12 of its last 13 SEC foes under 60.
Alabama now leads the all-time series against the Tigers, 90-57. The Tide has a 45-8 advantage in Tuscaloosa and 38-7 margin in Coleman Coliseum.
For the 15th time this season and 10th consecutive game the Alabama lineup was junior center Moussa Gueye along with guards, junior Trevor Releford and sophomores Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper.
Jacobs started the second half in place of Gueye.
In the final minutes, Alabama’s lineup was Obasahohn and four walk-ons – Keon Blackledge, Julian Goode, Isiah Wilson, and Dakota Slaughter. Bama has only four available walk-ons.
One of the dozens of Alabama game promotions is a student shooting for free barbecue. The prize is graduated based on a free throw, three-point shot, and the ultimate, the half-court shot. David Newberger made them all. Another promotion is “the shot of the game,” awarded to a Tide basketball player. Except Wednesday night it went to Newberger.