The third ranked Alabama Crimson Tide went on the road and defeated the unranked Auburn Tigers by a score of 77-69 on Saturday afternoon. Bama improved to 22-3 overall and 12-0 in league play with the win. The Tigers fell to 17-8 and 7-5 in conference play and have lost four of their last five games. The Tide didn't play their best game and the home standing Auburn team played with a lot of emotion, but the team with the most talent pulled away at the end for the victory. Alabama still hasn’t given up more than 69 points in any SEC game this season. Arkansas and Florida are the other two teams to reach that benchmark.
Coach Nate Oats used the same starting lineup of Mark Sears, Jaden Bradley, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller. Auburn rode the wave of emotion to an early lead, which they held for the majority of the game. Bradley made a basket on a strong drive to tie the game at 6-6 with 15:45 left in the half. The Tide did take a lead of 25-24 with 6:19 left when Miller made a smooth pass to Bediako for a hoop.
A Miller monster jam and free throw gave Bama a 37-35 lead with one minute remaining. Auburn scored to tie the game at the half at 37 each.
In the first half, the Tide shot 15-24 for 63% but only 3-9 from deep and 4-6 from the free throw line. The team grabbed 13 rebounds and had eight assists and eight turnovers. Miller led the scoring with eight points. Auburn shot 10-27 for 37% but hit 5-13 for 39% from behind the arc and made 12-14 free throws to keep them in the hunt. The Tigers had 15 rebounds, six assists, and committed five turnovers. Auburn’s Jaylen Williams led all scorers with 14 at the break.
Alabama opened the second half with the same starters. Auburn kept on getting fouled and making their free throws while the Tide was also getting fouled but not hitting their freebies at the same rate. When Bradley hit 1-2 from the line with 16:55 left the Tide trailed 46-42. The freshman continued to drive and get fouled, but had a hard time making his free throws. With 14:13 left in the game Rylan Griffen hit a key three pointer to put Bama up 50-49. Auburn did just enough to keep a three to five point lead. When Bradley missed both free throws with about 10 minutes left, Bama was 8-15 from the line while Auburn was 19-22 from the stripe.
Sears heated up and nailed a three pointer to tie the game at 59-59 with 7:33 left on the clock. Griffen continued his stellar play and put the Tide ahead 63-63 after making 2-2 at the charity stripe with 5:09 left. The freshman from Dallas then hit a long shot from behind the arc for a 66-62 lead, and Bama never trailed again.
Auburn drew within two before Miller followed a teammate’s miss for a tip in and a 68-64 lead with 4:22 left. Miller scored on another drive and after more iffy free throw shooting the Tide closed out their scoring with dunks by Griffen and Bediako. Defensively, the Tide held Auburn to an 0-10 stretch until they gave up a charity layup as the clock expired with Bama on top 77-69.
In the second half, the Tide shot 14-25 for 56% including 3-12 for 25% from deep and 9-17 at the free throw line. Overall, Bama shot 29-49 for 59%, only 6-21 for 29% from three, and 13-23 for 56% on free throws. The team had 34 rebounds, 14 assists, five blocks, seven steals, and 14 turnovers. Griffen led the way with 16 points on 5-7 shooting- 3-5 from three- in 21 minutes. Sears had 15 points also on 5-7 shooting and 3-4 from deep, and led the team with seven rebounds and had three assists. Miller had 13 points despite going 0-7 from three point range and added six rebounds and three assists. Bradley finished with 12 points on 5-6 shooting, but was only 2-6 from the free throw line. Clowney had six points and six rebounds but never looked comfortable after his injury from Wednesday and was also saddled with early foul trouble. Bediako had six points and five rebounds and played an excellent game in the middle, helping hold Johni Broome to 3-11 shooting in the game. Griffen was the player of the game and Nimari Burnett won the hard hat award.
Auburn shot 10-35 for 29% in the second with 2-11 for 18% from three and 10-12 from the stripe. For the game, the Tigers shot 20-62 for 32%, 7-24 for 29% from three, and a sparkling 22-26 for 85% from the line. AU won the rebounding battle with 36, including 16 on the offensive end, and had 11 assists, two blocks, nine steals, and 11 turnovers. Wendall Green Jr. had a game high 24 points. Williams finished with 16 after notching 14 in the first half.
An eight point win on the road in a hostile environment with the best shooter in the country going 0-for from three point range and only making 13-23 free throws speaks volumes. This Tide team can beat you in any number of ways. Today with the three being taken away Bama went inside and scored 44 points in the paint. The Tide only led for 10:11 of the 40 minutes. The largest leads for both teams in the game were 10 by Alabama and eight by Auburn. The Tide had 25 bench points and 14 fast break points.
The tough schedule the Tide played in out of conference is paying off in spades in SEC play. In contrast, Auburn played an extremely weak pre-conference slate and are paying for it as they play the upper echelon of the conference in the back end of their schedule. After the game, Oats said “this was a good win against a good team” and that “Rylan Griffen isn't afraid of anything.” When asked how long the team could celebrate this win Oats said “the players can celebrate on the bus on the way home, but the coaches will be in the film and working on a game plan for Tennessee.”
Next up, a trip to Knoxville to take on the highly regarded Tennessee Volunteers (19-5, 8-3 SEC) on Wednesday. The game will be at 6 p.m. CT and will be on ESPN2.