This game was frustrating from the onset, and it never got better. First, the Ole Miss-South Carolina game went into overtime, and the SECNetwork fumbled the ball on getting up an alternate stream for us to watch, causing many of us to miss the first 20 minutes of the game. By the time I checked in, the Tide had rallied from an early 8-point hole to take the lead. The Tide kept that streak going, and soon led by a score of 24-14, meaning that over a span of about 7 minutes, Alabama outscored the Tigers by a margin of 22-4.
At that point, the referees decided that Alabama's hot streak had gone far enough. During this period of time, Auburn made 9 straight points solely from free throws, and neither team actually scored a basket. The field goal drought was ended with Kareem Canty hitting a three-pointer and obnoxiously pointing at his wrist afterwards. It got even more obnoxious when he hit two more three pointers in the waning minutes of the half, one being from so far past the three point line that he was standing on the Auburn logo.
Alabama did just enough during the onslaught of threes to stay in the game, and finished the half only trailing by three at 37-40.
The second half was just a whole lot of ugly. Auburn wanted desperately to continue to fling three-point shots from wherever they were on the court, and made just enough of them to keep going, while Alabama completely forgot how to run an offense. Fortunately, Retin Obasohan was there to pick up the slack all by himself, as he repeatedly drove into the lane with an array of spins, hops, and shoulder tackles on his way to a game-high 27 points. It was reminiscent of the Tide offense a couple of years ago when the team was dependent on the exploits of Trevor Releford.
Unfortunately, Alabama could never quite close the gap. With the Tide down 77-81 and 30 seconds left in the game, Obasohan missed a jump shot, seemingly ending the game. However, instead of fouling, Riley Norris trapped Kareem Canty near mid-court and Canty stumbled, giving Alabama the ball back on a traveling call. As soon as the Tide faithful realized we had another shot, a referee ran in from the opposite end of the court and overruled the call of his partner, who was 5 feet away. Suddenly, the ball was wrenched back out of Alabama's hands, and Auburn was allowed to shoot two more free throws, officially icing the game.
It was ugly, and fouls were abundant for both teams. Jimmie Taylor and Arthur Edwards both fouled out, as did Auburn's Tyler Harris. You know it was getting bad when the announcers had to repeatedly defend the referees by mentioning that they aren't the people that came up with the rules. Regardless of whose fault it was, the game never got into any sort of rhythm with the myriad of fouls going both ways.
Shannon Hale was the only other Alabama player, aside from Obasohan, to score double digits, with 13. Jimmie Taylor had a great game when he wasn't on the bench with foul trouble, and he added 8 points in the second half to go along with 8 rebounds and a steal. Justin Coleman made a few really great plays and a few really boneheaded ones, but led the team with 5 assists. The rest of the team contributed a few points here and there, but were mostly just bodies on the court for the majority of the game.
As a team, Alabama shot 41.7% and an abysmal 26.7% from three point range. Though the Tide and Tigers had similar percentages on free throws, Auburn attempted 12 more than the Tide, and those extra free throws are what made the difference in the game.
This team really needs to find an offensive identity, as Obasohan's heroics aren't always going to be able to keep them in the game. On the other hand, aside from a few breakdowns and some ridiculous three point shots, the Tide defense looked really solid, and the rebounding seemed to be a little better than in previous games. This team has flaws, but the season still has promise.