The Crimson Tide basketball team kept the ball rolling, improving to 4-0 in the SEC by defeating archrival Auburn 94-90 on Saturday. The road win was the first over the Tigers for the seniors on the team. Freshman Joshua Primo and grad transfer Jordan Bruner both had their best games in Crimson to help grab the victory.
The Tide started out hot with Primo hitting three shots from deep to forge an 11-2 lead. Auburn hotshot freshman Sharife Cooper was finally granted eligibility by the NCAA and gave the Tigers a huge boost, helping the home team close the gap, and even taking a 33-32 lead late in the half. Bruner hit a three of his own, and an alley-oop from John Petty to Herbert Jones gave the Tide a 37-36 margin at the break.
At the half, Bama was shooting 14-40 for 35% and 6-21 from three point range with 3-3 from the free throw line. The Tide fell in love with the three point shot to their detriment. In victories over Tennessee and Florida, the team had 20 three point attempts for the whole of each game. Auburn shot 12-28 for 43% in the half with 4-12 from deep and 8-11 from the free throw line.
Alabama kept the starting five of Jones, Petty, Bruner, Primo, and Jaden Shackelford in the second half. The game went back and forth for the majority of the period. Jones slammed home an emphatic one handed dunk with 13:49 left to tie the game at 52. The Tide and Tigers went back and forth for several minutes before Bruner hit a three for a 72-66 lead, and seemingly had some breathing room. The Tigers, led by Cooper, kept battling back and the teams swapped leads again over the next few minutes of game time.
Primo had an outstanding game, but with 4:30 left he had two bad turnovers in a row that led to Auburn baskets, giving the home team an 84-83 lead. Petty made a huge follow up rebound and basket to tie the game with 3:03 left, a play that coach Nate Oats called “a game winning play.” Auburn held a 90-89 lead with 1:52 left when Jones was fouled. The senior from Greensboro calmly hit both shots to give the Tide a lead they would not relinquish. Bruner had a basket down low to make the margin 93-90. Cooper then rushed an ill-advised 25 foot three point attempt. Bama rebounded and Shackelford was fouled, making one of two. The Tide defense forced three Auburn turnovers in the final 2:15 of the game to pull out the victory.
Alabama picked up the shooting in the second, hitting 16-33 for 48%, with 4-11 from three, and hit a huge 21-26 for 80% from the free throw line. Cutting down on the number of threes attempted seems to correlate to better offensive performance for the team. Auburn shot 17-34 from the field with 4-15 from deep and 16-17 from the line. For the game, the Tide was 30-73 for 41% from the field, 10-32 for 31% from three-point, and 24-29 for 83% from the free throw line. Alabama had 42 rebounds with 15 offensive, dished 14 assists, had 17 turnovers, five blocks, and 15 big steals. Auburn finished 29-62 for 47%, including 8-27 from deep and 24-28 on free throws. The Tigers had 39 rebounds, 17 assists, 20 turnovers, 10 blocks, and nine steals.
Who did what?
Alabama put five players in double figures again with Primo leading the way with 22 points on 4-8 from three and 8-8 from the free throw line. The freshman added five rebounds and three assists, and two steals, but had five turnovers. Bruner had 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, a block, and three steals. The team definitely played better with the grad on the court. Jones was Jones, winning the hard hat award again. The big key was staying out of foul trouble and playing 34 minutes. Jones finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and five steals. The senior finished with a plus/minus of +19, meaning in the six minutes he wasn't on the floor the team was -15. Shackelford shook off a slow start and added 11 points and seven rebounds. Petty didn't shoot well, 1-7 from deep, but fought through it to finish with 10 points and eight rebounds. The Huntsville senior also harassed Cooper for the last few minutes of the game on the defensive end. I have to mention how much fun it is to watch Cooper. He reminds me of Collin Sexton and he scored 26 points and had nine assists in his college debut.
Playing their second straight game without Jahvon Quinerly, the Tide was able to figure out a way to win again. Quinerly would have been valuable to keep up with Cooper. Bama didn't have anyone quick enough to stay in front of him. Also Quinerly’s ability to get into the lane helps the Tide keep from depending too much on long range shooting. An undefeated start in league play after the team’s slow start in out-of-conference play is a pleasant surprise, and shows what this group is capable of.
RTR !!!— JQ (@RealJahvonQ) January 9, 2021
Tuesday the Tide travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky in an 8 p.m. CT game. You can see it on either ESPN or ESPN2.