A shorthanded Auburn Tiger basketball team was ripe for a beating on Wednesday at home. Already short-handed by an injury to Anfrenee McLemore ( not to mention the two players missing all season because of the FBI situation), second leading scorer Mustapha Herron was ruled out of the game with a stomach virus. AU was left with seven scholarship players, and very little size. The Tide is deeper and much bigger at every position. However the Tigers came out smoking and quickly took a 14-2 lead over the visitors.
‘Bama finally settled in and made the game competitive, even tying things up at 30-30 with 2:23 left in the half. Collin Sexton kept the Tide in the game almost single-handedly, hitting a shot at the buzzer to make the halftime deficit 40-35. Sexton had 14 at the half but his high school teammate, Auburn PG Jared Harper, tallied 16 for the Tigers. Avery Johnson, Jr. and Braxton Key provided some help off the bench, but the Tide got very little from Donta Hall, Daniel Giddens, John Petty, and Herbert Jones in the frame. Key had seven points and six rebounds, while Johnson, Jr had five points. Petty’s road woes continued and he was 0-4, all from three point range, in the first half.
The Tide started off playing well in the second half, staying within two to five points. When Sexton hit a three at the 13:18 mark the score was 53-50 in favor of Auburn. Thats when things started going downhill. The much smaller Tigers continued to punish ‘Bama on the glass, particularly the offensive end. With 7:17 left in the game AU had hit 12-17 from the field and had a 75-60 lead. From that point it was just a matter of how much pride the Tide would play with, and how much Auburn would win by. A late three by Petty cut the lead to under 20, and kept Petty from having a goose egg. The Huntsville product ended up 1-9 from the field, of course all from three point distance.
Alabama ended up 24-52 from the field for 46%, including 9-26 from three point range (34%) and struggled again from the free throw line at 14-22 for 63%. Auburn was 29-68 for 42% and 12-34 (35%) from deep. The Tigers hit 20-26 (77%) from the charity stripe. AU won the rebounding battle 41-35, with 14 of those coming on the offensive end, and had 19 assists, 14 steals, six blocks, and only nine turnovers. The Tide had only six offensive rebounds, and had 14 assists, four steals, five blocks, and 17 turnovers. The Tide had a better shooting percentage but the volume of shots allowed to Auburn because of the offensive rebounds and turnover differential were too much to overcome.
Sexton led the game in scoring with 25 points and added five rebounds and two assists. Key added 11 points and led the team with eight rebounds. Johnson, Jr. was the only other player in double digits with 10. Ingram had nine points and six rebounds. Petty did his usual road disappearing act, scoring only the three points he got at the end of the game. Petty had been the key to a Tide victory over Auburn in Tuscaloosa with eight threes. The difference between home Petty and road Petty continues to boggle the mind. Hall, coming off dominant play the last few games, was a non-factor with seven points and five rebounds against mostly 6’3” and 6’4” players. Harper lead AU with 21 points, six assists, and four steals. Bryce Brown added 18 and freshman Chuma Okeke had his best game with a 16 point, 10 rebound game. Malik Dunbar was also in double figures with 14 points and added seven rebounds.
Alabama, the top defensive team in the SEC, yielded 90 points to the Tigers for the worst defensive showing of the season. The 9,121 seat Auburn arena was packed and electric. AU has been a very good team all year, but especially at home. The win gave the Tigers a 24-4 record, 12-3 in the SEC. The Tide fell to 17-11, 8-7 in conference play.
The Tide looks to rebound at home on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT when they host the Arkansas Razorbacks. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.
Roll Tide, Buckle Up