Levi Randolph keyed the Alabama comeback, making 11 of his team-high 18 points after Auburn had taken a 44-35 lead with 9:59 to play. Ironically, with the game tied at 55-55 with 24 ½ seconds to play, Bama called timeout and seemed to have set up Randolph to take the last shot. He shot, missed, and Rodney Cooper gathered the rebound and banked it in.
Auburn’s final chance ended when the Tigers first, surprisingly, entered the ball in the backcourt, and then mishandled the ball as the shot clock expired.
Alabama improved to 13-6 overall and evened its Southeastern Conference record at 3-3, while ending a three-game losing streak. Auburn is now 10-9 overall, 2-4 in SEC games.
Alabama continues in Tuscaloosa hosting Florida Tuesday at 8 p.m. CST.
Had the game gone to overtime, it would have been considered cruel and unusual punishment for the 15,823 spectators. Only the finish kept it from being absolutely awful.
Alabama had a 25-23 halftime lead and extended that to 30-25, but then went into hibernation as the Tigers ran off 10 straight points. With 15 minutes to play, Shannon Hale hit a three-point shot to pull Bama to within 37-35.
Alabama then had five consecutive possessions end on turnovers. The Tide did not score again for five and a half minutes when the Tigers were up by 44-35. Ricky Tarrant then made four consecutive free throws to make it 44-39. But that would be it for Tarrant, who was tagged with his second technical foul, earning disqualification with 8:11 to play.
Down 8 with 8 to play, Randolph started the comeback with a steal and length-of-court drive and layup. Cooper and Michael Kessens made key shots and Randolph had another jumper.
The key play in the comeback probably came with 2:15 to play. Freshman Justin Coleman made the first of a one-and-one, but missed the second. Randolph, however, snatched the rebound, put it back in, and was fouled. He made the free throw and that four-point trip made it Alabama 51, Auburn 50.
Auburn tied it when Cinmeon Bowers made one of two free throws for the Tigers. It then became a battle of Randolph vs. the Tigers K.T. Harrell. Randolph hit a jumper from the free throw line. Harrell answered with a nice baseline drive and layup. With 45 seconds to play, Randolph drove the lane and scored. Seconds later, Harrell hit two free throws.
It was 55-55, setting up the dramatic finish.
Although officiating didn’t affect the outcome, it contributed to the negatives of the game. The game featured two techical fouls on Bama’s Tarrant, one on Auburn, a warning to the Auburn bench, and several play-stoppages for play reviews.
Both teams made 20 field goals and 12 free throws. Bama had one more three-point shot.
The Tide hit 20-45 from the field for 44.4 per cent, Auburn 20-51 for 29.2 per cent. Bama was good on 5-18 three-point tries, 27.8 per cent, the Tigers 3-11 for 27.3 per cent. Alabama made 12-16 free throws, 75 per cent, Auburn 12-15, 80 per cent.
Surprisingly, Alabama had a 31-29 advantage in rebounding. Bama had 13 turnovers, leading to 12 Auburn points; the Tigers had 12 turnovers, leading to 9 Alabama points.
Alabama had eight blocked shots, six of them by Jimmie Taylor.
Randolph was the only Tider in double figures with 18 points. Tarrant and Hale had 9 each and Cooper 8. Auburn was led by Harrell with 22. Bowers had 14 points (but hit only 6-14 on field goals) and a game-high 8 rebounds. Kessens had 7 rebounds for Bama.
The game didn’t just get ugly in the second half. The first half was not a thing of beauty, including Alabama botching its last possession. Not only did the Tide fail to score, it managed only a hurried shot. And that came after Bama allowed Auburn to get a tie-up. It was the Tide’s ball, but meant Auburn would get the ball to start the second half, and trailing by only a basket at 25-23.
Auburn had the lead for most of the first half, Antoine Mason hitting a couple of three-point shots before Alabama switched from zone to man-to-man. The Tigers had a five-point lead at 10-5, but three-point shots by Shannon Hale and Levi Randolph gave the Tide its first lead at 11-10.
Alabama had trouble getting the ball in against the Auburn press throughout the first half, including twice committing offensive fouls to give the Tigers the ball. In the second half it happened again, the second time by Ricky Tarrant.
There were two ties and five lead changes in the first half, the last when Hale made a free throw to make it 22-21. He missed the second foul shot, but Justin Coleman got the rebound, circled around the key, and drove the lane for a layup that made it 24-21 with just over two minutes until intermission.
TIDE NOTES: Starters for Alabama were point guard Ricky Tarrant, guard Levi Randolph, wing Rodney Cooper, forward Riley Norris, and center Jimmie Taylor.
Among those in the audience – as he is for almost every Alabama basketball game – was Deontay Wilder. And now that he is heavyweight champion of the world, he was introduced during a first half time out.
The highlight of halftime was Alabama receiving the most mis-named trophy in sports, the ODK Foy Sportsmanship Trophy, which goes to the winner of the Alabama-Auburn football game. Coach Nick Saban accepted with many of the Tide football players also on the court.
Alabama and Auburn meet again in regular season play, at Auburn on Feb. 17.