Tide Visit Just What Auburn Needed

Suppose you hadn't won a Southeastern Conference game this season, 0-6. In fact, what if it had been 16 games since you had won a conference game. Wouldn't you want to have the team that you last beat come calling? That was Auburn's good fortune. The Tigers were 0-6 in SEC play, but Alabama – the last league team the Tigers had beaten – were easy picking in Auburn Thursday night.

Coach Anthony Grant's Alabama team might have been able to play better Wednesday, although since the Crimson Tide is 0-8 on the road this year that's a dubious supposition. A couple of weeks ago Grant shared the curious thinking (considering results) that he prepares the same way for road games he does for home games.

In a game that was delayed a day by the ice and snow that hit the state this week, Auburn had its way with Grant's Bama squad, 74-55. It was Auburn's first SEC win since last season when the Tigers held Bama to a humiliating 37 points and won by 49-37.

Auburn improved to 10-10, while the Tide fell to 9-11. Alabama is now 3-4 in SEC games.

There's an adage that a team that has a bad loss wants to get back on the court in a hurry. Bama may regret getting that wish. Alabama returns to Coleman Coliseum to host Tennessee at 8 p.m. CST Saturday.

If you wanted to draw up a losing plan, it would have been Alabama's to start the game. Offensively, the Crimson Tide failed to score on its first seven possessions. Bama was 0-5 from the field and made two turnovers. In fact, Alabama started the game 1-10 from the field.

Meanwhile, the Tide was barely visible on defense and fell behind by 12-0 with the Tigers alternating between wide open jump shots and layups, with the occasional free throws – including a foul on a three-point shooter. Oh, and Trevor Releford picked up his second foul early and had to head to the bench. (He returned in the first half, and Bama went to a zone to protect him from picking up a third.)

Alabama's first points came with over five minutes gone in the first half when Releford drove the lane, made the layup, and added a free throw.

Shannon Hale was about all Bama had going for it on offense. Hale had two field goals and three free throws in the first half. And the Tide was able to get back within five points with the ball, but couldn't cut it more.

At the half it was Auburn (which made a desperation buzzer-beater) 30, Alabama 22 with the Tide having shot just 31 per cent and committing 11 turnovers.

Alabama also pulled to within five points a couple of times in the second half, but Auburn out-scrapped the Tide on critical lose ball situations and turned those efforts into easy points in pulling away.

A highlight of the second half was the first three minutes when Algie Key had three nice baskets for six points, but Bama was doing nothing defensively and the margin remained eight points after the Key flurry.

Moments later the Tide was down by 14. With just over 14 minutes to play, Releford made the Tide's first three-point shot to pull Alabama to within 11, but Bama never got it back to within single digits in the rout.

Releford led Alabama in scoring with 15 points, the only Tide player in double digits. Shannon Hale and Retin Obasohan had nine each. Nick Jacobs (3-3 from the field) was the only Alabama player to make 50 per cent of his field goals.

Auburn's Chris Denson (32 points) and K.T. Harrell (23 points) combined for 55 (equal to Alabama's team) of the Tigers' 74 points. Harrell also had 11 rebounds.

Alabama made only 19-53 field goal attempts (35.8 per cent), while Auburn was good on 25-51 (49 per cent). Bama made 14-20 free throws (70 per cent), Auburn 22-28 (l78.6 per cent). The Tigers out-rebounded the Tide, 37-30.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama started the game with Algie Key, Carl Engstrom, Shannon Hale, Trevor Releford, and Rodney Cooper.

Retin Obasohan made his first appearance in three games. He had been out with a strained hip flexor.

Alabama dominates the series, Thursday night's debacle notwithstanding. The Tide has an 89-59 advantage in the series. Grant is now 6-3 against the Tigers, including 2-3 at Auburn.

Alabama will host Auburn on March 1.

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