The Alabama Crimson Tide improved their record to 12-17, 6-10 in the SEC by spanking in state rival Auburn 73-57 on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, salvaging a season split by avenging a 74-55 road loss to the Tigers on January 29. 'Bama used a 20-4 run in the first half to take a comfortable 29-12 lead that was never threatened. The Tide had a season high six first-half threes to stake themselves to a 36-21 lead at halftime. Levi Randolph had 13 points, Shannon Hale had seven, and Trevor Releford was held to four.
Alabama shot 12-25 (48%) in the first half, a sizzling 6-10 (60%) from three point range, and 6-9 (66.7) from the free throw line in the first half. Auburn was 8-29 (27.6%) and 4-10 (40%) from three, and 1-4 (25%) from the charity stripe in the first half.
'Bama came out strong in the second half and managed to stretch the lead with continued aggressive play by Releford and Randolph. As has been his mantra lately, Releford had an outstanding second half, finishing the game with 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Randolph finished with 24 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Retin Obasohan chipped in 13 points and even hit two three-pointers, a major weakness in his game. Rodney Cooper added nine rebounds of his own and played an outstanding defensive game while adding five points on offense. Hale finished with seven points and four rebounds. Fours were wild for Jimmie Taylor, as he finished with four points, four rebounds and four big blocked shots. One highlight of the game was when Releford broke free of the Tiger press and passed ahead to a wide open Carl Engstrom for a dunk at the other end. Two big components of this play can not be overlooked. Engstrom actually CAUGHT the ball cleanly, and then he rose up and DUNKED the ball! In twelve minutes that was the only statistic Engstrom tallied.
KT Harrell led Auburn with 21 points on 7-19 shooting. SEC leading scorer Chris Denson, who scorched the Tide for 32 points in Auburn, was held to just six points on 2-15 shooting. Allen Payne had nine points and six rebounds and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum had eight points while leading the Tigers with 11 rebounds. The Tigers did win the battle on the boards by a margin of 46-38, including an incredible 24 on the offensive end. It was not unusual for Auburn to get three to four chances on an offensive possession, but the majority of the time they couldn't capitalize.
In the second half 'Bama hit an even 50% of its shots, 12-24, and was 4-8 from behind the three point line. The free throw shooting, a strength early in the year, continues to be a problem as the team shot a mediocre 9-14 in the second half and only 15-23 (65.25) for the game. Auburn hoisted 40 shots in the second half, thanks to their play on the offensive boards, but only were able to connect on 11 of them (27.5%) and a putrid 1-17 from three point range (5.9%.) The Tigers finished 19-69 (27.5) and 5-27 (18.5%) from the three point line. The Tigers were 14-21 (66.7%) from the free throw line.
The Tide once again showed that if Releford gets some help they can be a dangerous team. Hitting 10-18 three point shots will help keep you win a lot of games. You have to feel Randolph getting completely healthy has allowed him to play with more aggressiveness and confidence. The three point shots he had been passing up early in the year, he is now taking, and making. Today he was 6-11 from the field, 4-6 from three point range. Releford hit 6-12, including 2-4 from behind the stripe.
Beleaguered Coach Anthony Grant improved his record against his biggest rival to 7-3, including 5-0 in Tuscaloosa in his tenure. After the game Grant said "I thought our guys responded well, and when we got a lead we were able to build on it." Grant continued, " We set the tone on defense and were able to get out in transition, and we can do that we become a much better team. Hitting some shots helps too."
Releford passed James Hollywood Robinson to move into sixth place on the all-time Alabama scoring list with 1,825 points. Next up is former All American Jerry Harper who had 1851 points. Alabama travels to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky on Tuesday, March 4th. The 8:00 p.m. game will be televised by ESPN. Kentucky is 21-7 overall and 11-5 in the SEC but have dropped the last two including an inexplicable upset loss today at South Carolina. It will be interesting to see how the 'Cats respond.
After the tilt in Lexington, 'Bama returns home for Releford's last game in Tuscaloosa on Saturday at 3 p.m. against the Arkansas Razorbacks. If any player ever deserved a big senior day turnout, it is Releford. He has done more with less than any Alabama player in recent (and in my case, not so recent) memory. Try to come out and support him for all the blood, sweat, and tears he has given to the program.
Roll Tide Y'all. Always great to beat the Boogs.