Alabama, which fell to 21st in the nation after losing back-to-back games at LSU and at home to Kentucky, is now 22-6 overall and 22-4 in Southeastern Conference play. Bama is tied with LSU for first place in the SEC Western Division. Auburn fell to 12-16 overall and 3-12 in league play.
Alabama closes out regular season play at 1 p.m. CST Saturday at Mississippi State. The game will be telecast by CBS. Alabama routed Mississippi State by 49 points, 98-49, in a meeting in Tuscaloosa earlier this year.
Alabama was ahead by 11 points, but hardly in comfortable control at intermission. The Tide had allowed the Tigers five points in the final 35 seconds of the first half and led by only 41-30. At halftime Auburn had made nine field goals and five of them had been three-point shots. In the second half Alabama held Auburn to only 1-20 on three-pointers, 5 per cent shooting from outside the arc.
Alabama outscored Auburn 25-6 in the first 10 minutes of the second half to open up a 30-point lead and coasted home. Substitutes played substantial minutes with senior walk-on guard Jason Reese taking highlight reel honors with a spectacular fast break dunk in the final moments. Lucky Williams was another senior playing his last game and scored four points.
But the senior of note was Earnest Shelton, who had been in something of a slump. In the second half he broke out of it. Shelton missed his only two three-point attempts in the first half. In the second half he hit four-of-four treys en route to a 24-point night.
Shelton said he had been putting in extra work on his three-point shot over the past four days. "It was a great feeling to start knocking down my shots again," he said.
Shelton had a 34-point game in the rout of Mississippi State earlier this year. He said the Bama can "expect the worst" from the Bulldogs. "They'll have a chip on their shoulder," he said. "They were embarrassed over here. We'll have to find a way to defend them, find a way to get it done."
Both Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried and Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo paid tribute to Bama junior Kennedy Winston, with Lebo indicating he would not be surprised if the game wasn't Winston's last in Coleman Coliseum as well as the final contest for the Bama seniors. Lebo said he would not be surprised to see Winston drafted. "Kennedy is one of the best shooters in the country," he said. "He's got the ability to score so many different ways."
Winston did score a lot of ways against Auburn as he tied Shelton for high-point honors with 24. Winston was 8-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-7 on three-point shots.
Alabama played much of the game without point guard Ron Steele, who suffered a thigh contusion (bruise) in last Saturday's game against Kentucky. When he took a hit on the bruise in the early moments of the Auburn game, Gottfried elected to sit his talented freshman point guard for most of the game.
With Steele out, Winston spent much of tthe game at point guard. Jean Felix took Winston's spot and had eight pooints and led Bama with eight rebounds.
Auburn opened the game doubling down on Chuck Davis, but suffered at the hands of Winston's outside shooting. In the second half the Tigers went one-on-one with Davis, who had eight points in seven minutes of second half play and finished with 18 points.
Auburn took 62 shots, 31 of them three-pointers. The Tigers hit 29 per cent overall (18-62) and 19.4 per cent on treys (6-31). Although Alabama took five fewer field goals, Bama hit 31 of 57 for 54.4 per cent and Bama was good on 11-of-22 treys, 50 per cent.
Lebo noticed that his team was whistled for 27 fouls and Bama only 12. Alabama, the SEC's second best free throw shooting team, hit 21-24 (87.5 per cent). Auburn was good on 11 of 12, 91.7 per cent.
Alabama out-rebounded Auburn, 42-31.
Alabama out-scored Auburn in the paint, 36-14. Bama had 12 points off Auburn's 15 turnovers, while Auburn had 11 points off Bama's 10 turnovers.
Alabama blocked eight shots with Jermareo Davidson getting three and Chuck Davis two.
Gottfried said, "I was very pleased with the way we played. It was very important to win after our last two games, but it was also important to play well."