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Alabama Basketball blows an early lead to lose a heartbreaker to Auburn

The title says it all. Read further if you enjoy self-torture

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With in-state bragging rights, NCAA tournament berths, and the season as a whole on the line for the Tide, they suffered a second half collapse that was a microcosm of their entire season.

A hot start had Coleman Coliseum rocking with energy as the Tide made their first 5 attempts, including back-to-back three pointers, racing out to a 12-2 lead. To their credit, Auburn responded with five quick points of their own, but then another flurry of energy shot the Tide back out to a 10 point lead. Auburn went into a major scoring slump, only racking up 6 points over the final 7 and a half minutes of the first half. Alabama added to their lead despite some weird officiating and turnovers and closed out the half with a solid 34-23 lead.

Then the second half happened. John Petty got a couple of free throws at the start of the half, and Kira Lewis knifed his way in for a layup and drew a foul four minutes later. Then the two reversed course and Petty hit a jumper while Lewis got a couple of free throws. It was a fairly low-scoring output for the first five minutes of the half, but at least the Tide was going positive and were playing solid defense, holding Auburn to only 8 points of their own over the same period of time.

That’s when the announcer made the comment that Auburn had to feel lucky that they were only down 4 possessions despite having a horrific shooting night thus far, and Alabama had to be feeling a bit uncomfortable, since Auburn can quickly turn a game with a flurry of threes and the Tide has struggled with snowballing turnover-fests at inopportune times (I took some creative liberties with my paraphrasing there, but the concept is the same).

Well, that may as well have ruined the night for Alabama. The Tigers rattled of 11 unanswered points in 2.5 minutes as a comedy of turnovers and fouls wreaked havoc on the Tide’s chances at winning the game and their overall season. Kira Lewis did manage to stop the careening with a basket to preserve the lead for a couple of more possessions, but it didn’t last. Alabama struggled to inbound the ball, pass the ball, or generally hold on to the ball without finding some way to turn it over as the Tigers continued to pull ahead.

Some late heroics from Herbert Jones saw him rattle off 3 of the Tide’s final 5 baskets while also tossing an assist to Donta Hall for a dunk for the 4th. Tevin Mack nailed a three-pointer with 1:40 to go and tied the game up at 60, giving just a spark of life back to the crowd.

Unfortunately, that spark didn’t have all three components of the combustion triangle and sputtered out as Kira Lewis turned the ball over on back to back plays, letting Auburn close out the game with a final score of 66-60.

The two turnovers at the end of the game left a foul taste in everyone’s mouths, but they were actually Lewis’s only two of the game. He was otherwise the only effectual offensive player for the Tide pretty much all night as he led the team with 13 points and 3 assists. Herbert Jones wasn’t far behind with 11 points and 3 assists of his own (most of which came in the final stretch when the Tide needed points the most).

Tevin Mack hit 2 of the Tide’s 5 total three-point shots and wound up being the only other player in double digits with 10 points, but he also missed 5 more attempts.

John Petty led the team with an astounding 6 turnovers, but also led the way the 9 rebounds. Both are areas that we normally don’t see him making much of a dent in the stat sheet on.

Alabama actually shot slightly better than the Tigers at 44% compared to 40% on the night, but 19 turnovers to only 12 from the Tigers led to a significant difference in the number of shots taken, and that quantity led to the win for Auburn.

With that loss, Alabama was swept by their in-state rival for the year and falls to 4-6 over their last 10 games. Without a strong push in the SEC tournament, it’s looking less and less likely that the Tide will make it into the NCAA tournament this year.

Roll Tide, I guess.