The road woes continued in the loss to Ole Miss, and it now looks like Alabama will go the entire 2013-14 season without winning a single road game, barring a miraculous win over Kentucky next week. The good news for the Crimson Tide is that the Auburn Tigers (13-13, 5-10 SEC) will come to Tuscaloosa for the game Saturday. The last time these two teams met, Auburn stomped Alabama in humiliating fashion down on the Plains, with their football team also receiving the Iron Bowl trophy at halftime. In other words, it was a terrible day to be a Tide fan. Forget how bad this season has been thus far, all that matters right now is getting some sweet revenge against these guys. Plus 11th place in the SEC is on the line! FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!
From last time:
I said last time that Auburn was better than their win-less SEC record showed, and their 5-4 record since I wrote that only solidifies that. Denson and Harrell can play, they are very good basketball players.
Denson (20.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG) continues to lead Auburn offensively, as he is currently tops in the SEC in PPG. His shooting numbers have gone up across the board (48.3% FG%, 25.3% 3P%, 66.0% FT%), and that has been a very good thing for Auburn.
Harrell (18.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 APG) has cooled off rather significantly from the field (43.9% FG%, 36.1% 3P%) but he is still a very dangerous option for the Tigers.
Shamsid-Deen (9.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.8 SPG) has progressed as a freshman, and should continue to see his role increase over time.
Canada (2.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG) and Wade (3.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 SPG) have played in every game, but again, there isn't much to say about them.
Payne (7.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 SPG) has continued his solid production in the post.
Dixon-Tatum (5.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.9 BPG) has improved as a scorer (57.7% FG%, 60.9% FT%), but his PPG has gone down. This usually indicates that he is taking better shots, and that he is actually knocking down his free throws now.
Atewe (1.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG) and Griciunas (2.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG) have continued to see a lot of time (and not so much production) off of the bench in the post.
There really isn't much else to say about Granger (1.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG) and Thompson (1.2 PPG, 1.4 RPG).
Three Keys to Victory
Key #1 is vital to Alabama's chances of winning this game. Denson and Harrell combined for 55 of Auburn's 74 points last time. Yes, they had as many points as our whole team. Denson has been tearing it up lately, so the Tide needs to do its best to slow him down. You just can't let Denson get dribble penetration and give him a lane to the basket. As I said before, Harrell has cooled off, but he is very capable of heating back up.
Key #2 didn't really affect the game last time, as neither team was able to get anything going from downtown. But it could still play a huge factor in this game for the same reason as before. If Trevor Releford, Shannon Hale, Levi Randolph, or Rodney Cooper get going from beyond the arc, it's going to put a lot of pressure on Auburn to try and match that output on the road.
Key #3 was miserable for Alabama last game. Despite Auburn not being a very good rebounding team, they went +7 against us, and that prevented Alabama from ever getting back into the game when Denson and Harrell started going off.
The Trevor Releford Watch
-After a 16 point, 5 rebound, 4 steal and 3 assist performance against Ole Miss, Releford has continued to build his resume for SEC POY. I know it's not likely to happen, but the guy is basically guaranteed to be First Team All-SEC once again.
-Releford is now only 4 points behind the great James Robinson for 6th all-time in scoring here at the Capstone. So show up Saturday afternoon to watch one of Alabama's all-time greats continue his climb up the Alabama record books.
Alabama and Auburn don't have much to play for on Saturday, but come on, its Auburn. These guys have really been a nasty thorn in our sides recently, and a blowout win over them at home would be so very nice. The game tips-off at 2:00 pm CST and will be televised by ESPNU.