Tide’s Game Against Auburn Looks Tougher

A few months ago Alabama would have looked at its Jan. 24 basketball game as almost a lock win. A day before the game it doesn’t look so sure. That’s partly because of what Bama has done, losing three consecutive games, and partly because what Auburn has done, showing great improvement under new coach Bruce Pearl.

Alabama will play its second game in 48 hours, as the Crimson Tide will welcome Auburn to Coleman Coliseum for a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday. The game is sold out and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Bama suffered its third consecutive loss at Arkansas Thursday night, a 93-91 overtime heart-breaker for the Tide. Bama also lost a two-point game at South Carolina and in between the tough road setbacks was a decisive home loss at the hands of No. 1 Kentucky.

Both teams are 2-3 in Southeastern Conference play. Auburn, too, is coming off a loss, a home setback to Mississippi State on Wednesday. Bama is 12-6 overall, the Tigers 10-8.

This will be the 150th basketball meeting between the two. The Crimson Tide owns a 90-59 edge in the series. Alabama has won seven of the last nine games, including five straight at home. Bama owns an all-time record of 46-8 when playing Auburn in Tuscaloosa, including a 39-7 record against the Tigers in Coleman Coliseum.

Anthony Grant is in his sixth season as Alabama head coach. He owns a record of 111-77 (.590) during his time at The Capstone and is 187-102 (.647) in his ninth season as a head coach. Grant is 7-3 against Auburn, including 5-0 in Tuscaloosa. Pearl is in his first season at Auburn. Now in his 11th season as a Division I head coach, Pearl has a career record of 241-107 (.693).

The coaches are 1-1 against each other stemming from Pearl’s last year as Tennessee coach. He left Tennessee after being hit with a three-year show cause penalty for lying in an attempted cover-up of a minor NCAA violation before returning to coaching at Auburn.

Grant has a record of 82-18 (.820) on Alabama’s home floor. During the 2013-14 season, the Tide finished 13-4 at home and outscored teams by an average of 9.5 points a game (73.4-63.8). This year, Alabama is 10-1 in home games and is outscoring the competition by 10.2 points per game (69.5-59.3).

Alabama has an all-time record of 540-121 (.815) in the facility’s 47th season of use.

Senior guard Levi Randolph leads Alabama in scoring (14.8 ppg), assists (2.6 apg), steals (1.6), and minutes (33.8 mpg) through the Tide’s 18 contests. The Madison native ranks fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage (.835), eighth in steals, and ninth in scoring.

Junior guard Ricky Tarrant ranks second on the team with 13.3 ppg, while also leading the squad in three-point shots made (27) and attempted (89). Senior guard Rodney Cooper is third on this year’s squad with 10.9 ppg and is tied with Tarrant for the team lead in threes made (27), while ranking second on the squad in three-point shooting (43.5 percent).

Sophomore forward Shannon Hale is the fourth in scoring, contributing 7.6 points along with 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists a contest.Sophomore forward Jimmie Taylor leads the team in blocks per game (1.7) and field goal percentage (.630), and is second with 5.0 rebounds per game, while also chipping in with 4.7 points per contest.

The loss notwithstanding, there was quite a scoring spark from Alabama’s guards against Arkansas. Freshman point guard Justin Coleman hit 5-7 three-point shots and had a team high 22 points. Starting point guard Ricky Tarrant hit 5-10 treys and had 21 points. Wing Rodney Cooper was good on 3-5 treys and scored 15 points. And guard Levi Randolph was in double figures with 12 points. Bama hit 12-24 on three-point shots against the Razorbacks and shot 48.1 per cent from the field.

Heading into the Arkansas contest, Coleman had scored a combined nine points over the previous seven games, including five games in which he went scoreless.

Tarrant has reached double figures in six of his last eight contests, including an Alabama career-best 24-point scoring output vs. UCLA. Over the stretch, Tarrant is averaging a team-best 14.0 points per game.

Over his last four contests, Cooper is averaging 12.3 points and 3.8 rebounds a game, while connecting on 56.3 percent from both the field (18-of-32) and beyond the arc (9-of-16) during the stretch.

Over his last eight games, forward Michael Kessens has a pair of double-doubles, while averaging 9.0 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 54.7 percent from the field.

As a team, the Tide is outscoring the opposition by 6.0 points per game (70.2-64.2). Alabama is also averaging 7.3 steals and 3.7 blocks per game.

Saturday’s contest will mark the first of two games between the two teams, as the Tide will make the return trip to Auburn on Feb. 17.


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