Bama Basketball Rolls Over Auburn

Two basketball teams likely going nowhere after the SEC Tournament next month met at Tuscaloosa's Coleman Coliseum Saturday. That fact, likely due to the game being the "Iron Bowl of Basketball," didn't stop 13,499 people from showing up to see Alabama defeat Auburn, 73-57.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant noticed a different level of energy from his team than he saw in a 19-point loss at Auburn January 29. "We're excited to get the win in the rivalry game. I thought our guys came out with great energy from the start", he said. "It was good to see guys playing with confidence and letting the game come to them."

Auburn players and coaches agreed. "They just had way more energy than us. We couldn't match it," said K.T. Harrell, who led Auburn with 21 points.

Perhaps the only negative on the day for UA was Auburn's 24-8 lead on offensive boards, but the Tigers converted those into but 13 second chance points. Auburn won the battle of the glass, 46-38, but the Tide outshot the visitors 49 to 27.5 per cent to more than counteract.

"Our energy wasn't where it needed to be. That was clear," said Tigers Coach Tony Barbee. "We knew their energy was going to be high. We talked about it. We couldn't catch up to where their energy was."

Levi Randolph, who has averaged 23 points the last two games off the bench, started the game and scored a game-high 24 points, including a long trey for a 12-8 lead six minutes into the first half. He led the Tide with nine boards. Randolph was joined in double digits by Trevor Releford (16) and Retin Obasohan, who had 13.

Auburn's top scorer, Chris Denson, left the game in middle of the first half after a collision on a play where he was called for an offensive foul and a resulting bucket was wiped off. He sat for 10 minutes of the half, but finished the game with but six points, 14 under his average.

Randolph brought the crowd to its feet by dunking after Auburn missed a dunk for a 16-10 lead.

Said Randolph, "I was just trying to be aggressive. Coach always tells us to play with confidence, and the game will flow and come easy." "Levi came out with great confidence," said Releford. "He was really taking what the defense gave him."

The first half featured two ties and but one lead change, and saw Alabama (12-17, 6-10 SEC) lead 36-21 at intermission. The Tide's biggest lead of the half, 17 points came at the 4:16 mark on a rare Retin Obasohan 3-pointer.

Auburn (13-14, 5-11) drew as close as 12 points with 12:30 to go, but a Releford trey from the right corner started a Tide run that put the Tigers away. Of particular enjoyment to the crowd was a sequence where Obasohan blocked a Denson dunk attempt, and Alabama countered with two Releford free throws and a Randolph 3-pointer.

Another interesting sequence came when Carl Engstrom first tipped in a basket for Auburn, and then got a dunk of his own for a 67-51 Tide lead with less than four minutes left. Auburn cut the lead down to 11 with 1:48 left.

Alabama now leads Auburn 90-59 in the series.

The Tide travels to Kentucky Tuesday for a game that will be telecast by ESPN at 8 p.m. CST.

NOTES: At half time, Alabama's 1973-1974 SEC co-champions were honored.  That team that went 22-8 (13-5 in SEC play) and included Wendell Hudson, Raymond Odums, Charles Cleveland, Leon Douglas, Paul Ellis, Glenn Garrett, and Johnny Dill.  The quirky thing about that squad was the fact that, at that time, only one team per league advanced to the NCAA Tournament (Vanderbilt won the tie-breaker). In addition, Alabama could not participate in the NIT because of a short-lived rule that prevented a school which was hosting a NCAA Regional Tournament (the Mid-East Regional was in Tuscaloosa that year) from playing in the NIT.  As a result, one of Alabama's best teams ever finished 22-8 and SEC co-champs at 13-5, but did not play in the post-season.

Big man Eddie Phillips was recognized during the first media time out for being Alabama's SEC Legends representative at this year's league tourney in Atlanta.

Though his leave of absence continued, junior forward Nick Jacobs was spotted courtside in street clothes.

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