Well, it didn’t start out too badly.
Alabama led Auburn for much of the first half and went into the locker room tied at 30, then traded blows with the Tigers to open the second half. When freshman Braxton Key found Donta’ Hall under the basket with a beautiful pass for a wide-open dunk with just over nine minutes to play, the Tide led 52-51 and were primed to steal one in enemy territory.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.
Auburn finished the game on a 33-12 run to blow ‘Bama out by a score of 84-64. Coach Avery Johnson fell to 1-2 against his in-state rival, losing both road games and winning at home last season. The teams play again on February 4th in Tuscaloosa. The Tide fell to 11-7 overall and 4-2 in the SEC. The Barn improved to 13-6, 3-4 in conference.
The difference in the game was multifaceted. The Tide didn't shoot well (big surprise) with a 24-58 (41%) performance, including 6-21 for a putrid 28% from three-point range. Free throw shooting again was awful with a 10-19 line for 52%. The defense allowed Auburn to shoot 50% with a 24-48 stat line, and an outstanding 8-13 for 61% from deep.
The Tigers’ ability to get to the free throw line 42 times was another big factor in their victory. AU hit 28 of those attempts, with most of the misses coming late after the game was as good as over. Once again ball security was a big issue with Alabama turning the ball over 16 times. although they did have 13 assists. The Tide has hung their hat on defense and rebounding. Despite averaging more than 10 rebounds a game more than their opponents in SEC play, the boards were even at 34.
Fouls were an issue as Dazon Ingram sat out over 12 minutes with two early fouls and Donta’ Hall was limited as well. The Tide was able to keep things close up until about the five minute mark, trailing 63-59. However an inability to secure the ball, take good shots, and make any shots doomed the team down the stretch. Auburn freshman Austin Wiley, who was still in high school last month, had a monster game, dominating Jimmie Taylor and Hall down low. Wiley finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Braxton Key was the lone bright spot for the Tide on offense, scoring 18 points in 28 minutes, adding four rebounds and three assists. Turnovers continue to dog the freshman, as he committed four in the game. Riley Norris joined Key in double digits with 10 points. Avery Johnson Jr. scored eight and kept the Tide close with a couple of back to back baskets around the five minute mark, before the Tigers took over. Corban Collins, who has been an offensive catalyst as of late, was held scoreless on 0-5 shooting in 20 minutes.
With Hall in foul trouble, Bola Olaniyan was forced into 22 minutes of action and took advantage grabbing 11 boards, including an amazing eight on the offensive end. Unfortunately the Tide struggled far too often to convert the boards into points.
This was a dreadful loss against a very young Auburn team. The Tide lost their composure when they had a chance to stay in the game, and got totally run out of the gym in the end. This team is going to have to start taking better care of the basketball, but will continue to live and die by the three-point shot. When they are falling, they have a chance, but at this point there isn't any go-to player to get points when they really need them. Key has a chance to be that guy, but needs Collins and Norris knocking down threes to help him out and give him room to roam.
The Tide travel to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday in an 8 p.m. (CT) tip off in a game that will be shown on ESPNU. The Dogs lost a controversial game at TAMU on Saturday and will be looking to bounce back.
Roll Tide, Buckle Up