The Crimson Tide basketball team, coming off an exciting victory over number four Baylor on Saturday, couldn’t keep it going and got smashed by number one Auburn on Tuesday night in a road game. The Tigers bested the Tide 100-81 to improve to 21-1 and 9-0 in the SEC. Bama fell to 14-8 and 4-5.
Coach Nate Oats changed the starting lineup again with Juwan Gary joining Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, Jaden Shackelford, and Charles Bediako on the first five. The Tide jumped out to an early lead with Shackelford scoring eight quick points, but when the junior guard was called for his second foul with 13:44 left in the half he had to take a seat for a few minutes, and things started getting away from Bama. The Tide was down 18 with 1:09 left in the half before getting a three pointer from James Rojas and a third one from Shackelford to “cut” the lead to 51-37 at the break.
In the half Bama shot 11-34 for 32% including 7-16 (44%) from three and made 8-10 free throws. Shackelford led the way with 16 points at the intermission. Auburn scorched the nets to the tune of 16-28 for 57% with 3-9 from three and a huge differential of 16-20 free throws. The Tigers punished the Tide inside with paint points and blocked shots. Even when Walker Kessler wasn't swatting Bama shots out of the air he was altering them, causing the team to make only 4-18 two point attempts. Auburn outscored the Tide 26-8 in the paint during the first 20 minutes.
The Tide came out on fire in the second half. Quinerly looked to have had a fire lit under him as he got to the rim on blow by’s time after time and was able to score. With 16:38 left Quinerly tossed in a three pointer to cut the lead to 53-47. Shackelford hit two quick long range shots and with 14:21 remaining in the game Bama had cut the lead to 57-55. Bediako looked like a force in the middle, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. At this point it appeared the Tide had a real chance in the game. Alas, it was fool’s gold.
In a blink of an eye the Tigers raced back out to a 10 point lead with 11:53 left by running, gunning, and feeding off the energy of their very loud and enthusiastic crowd. When things calmed down Auburn had completed an 18-3 run to take control of the contest. Things started getting a little chippy and with just over five minutes left Shackelford and Auburn’s Allen Flanigan were called for double technical fouls after a skirmish on the floor. From that point the Tigers coasted and when walk on Carter Sobera made an old fashioned three point play they reached the magic 100 point plateau.
In the second half Bama shot 14-36 for 39% with 7-21 from deep and made 9-12 free throws. For the game the Tide finished 25-70 for 36%, hit 14-37 for 38% from three, and made 17-22 free throws for 77%. Bama had 40 rebounds, 13 assists, five blocks, six steals, and 11 turnovers. The Tigers shot 16-38 in the half for 42%, 2-12 from three, and 15-19 from the line. For the game AU finished 33-62 for 49%, 5-21 from deep for 24%, and 31-39 for 80% from the stripe. The home team had 47 rebounds, 12 assists, seven steals, 10 blocks. and only eight turnovers.
Individually Shackelford scored 26 points in 35 minutes of action on 6-15 shooting with 5-11 for three point range, and 9-10 from the free throw line. Quinerly had his second consecutive 20 point game, scoring 20 on 7-21 from the field with 2-8 from deep. The senior from New Jersey who was only 1-7 at the half also had four rebounds and four assists, Noah Gurley was the only other player in double figures, scoring 11 points in only 14 minutes. Ellis hit two late three pointers to finish with nine points on 3-11 shooting and led the team with eight rebounds. Bediako only scored three points but had seven rebounds and three blocked shots. JD Davison played 23 minutes and failed to score but did dish out four assists with zero turnovers.
For Auburn the Tide couldn’t handle seven footer Kessler who controlled the paint to the tune of 14 points, 12 rebounds, eight blocked shots, and seemingly a dozen altered ones. Fast little point guard Wendell Green, Jr. couldn’t be handled by Alabama guards, pouring in 23 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and only one turnover. The Tide somewhat controlled superstar freshman Jabari Smith who still scored 17 points and had five boards. Georgia transfer KD Johnson was also in double figures with 13 points.
Coming in we pretty much knew things would have to go perfectly for the Tide to pull off the road win at Auburn Arena, arguably the toughest place to play in the country with its small size and vocal crowd that is right on top of the court. Bama did make 14 threes, the most that they have made in a game since making 16 vs Miami early in the year. However after shooting 72% on two point attempts in the Baylor game the Tide regressed to 32%, making only 11 of 34. Alabama was outscored in the paint 52-22, on fast break points 27-11, and off the bench 44-20. The Tigers are a deep team and keep throwing waves of athletes at you. The Tide couldn’t match their size or depth.
After the game Oats said that the team gave up too many transition points and that “we have to learn to guard without fouling.” Oats continued that “we didn't sprint back on D like we are supposed to.” When asked about the teams effort, a problem all year, Oats said that “the effort wasn't as good as it was against Baylor, but it was there at times.” The third year coach continued that during the run to start the second half that “JQ was getting downhill to the rim and having success.” Oats continued that “we couldn’t sustain the run, we had to sub out some and we lost some momentum and we ran out of gas”, going on to say, “they are just so deep.” Charles Bediako was said by the coach to have played well during the early part of the second half.
The murderers’ row of ranked teams continues for the Tide on Saturday as they welcome the 5th ranked Kentucky Wildcats to Coleman for a 7 p.m. C.T. tipoff in a game that can be seen on ESPN. In a span of seven days the Tide will have played the 4th, 1st, and 5th ranked teams in the country. Roll Tide to that.