Tide Beats Auburn

Even with its best player back home in Tuscaloosa recuperating from knee surgery, Alabama's basketball team was too good for Auburn on the Tigers' home court Wednesday night. A regional television audience and the largest crowd Auburn will have this year saw Bama battle from behind and pull out a 56-52 win.

Alabama extended its winning streak to six in a row over Auburn with the Southeastern Conference victory. Alabama improved to 8-6 overall and 1-1 in SEC play, while Auburn fell to 8-5 overall but 0-2 in league games.

Alabama returns to action Saturday at Kentucky. The noon CST tipoff will be telecast by CBS.

Alabama scored the first five points of the game and led for the first 10-plus minutes in the game, but then watched Auburn pull away to a seven-point halftime lead, 34-27. The Crimson Tide fought to get back close throughout the second half and then finally tied the game at 50-50 with 2:15 to play on a three-pointer from the corner by freshman Alonzo Gee. Moments later Gee made two free throws and the Tide had the lead for good.

Gee had an outstanding night with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Although he has been a very poor free throw shooter, he made six of eight in his first Alabama-Auburn game.

Another freshman, Richard Hendrix, didn't have the statistics of Gee, but he had some key plays down the stretch. With 47 seconds to play he made a free throw that gave Alabama a three-point lead. Then with just over 30 seconds to play he made a steal and got the ball to Ron Steele. Steele made two free throws for a five-point Bama lead.

The Tide had to withstand a final Auburn effort. Auburn got a basket on a putback and Hendrix was whistled for a foul. The free throw was missed, but trailing by three the Tigers had a chance to tie it with a trey. Auburn shot a trey, but it was wild, and Gee pulled down the rebound. he was fouled and made a free throw for the final point of the game with three and a half seconds to play.

Steele finished with 15 points, while Jermareo Davidson also had a double-double, 12 points and 13 rebounds. Alabama had a resounding 42-27 edge in rebounds.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I'm so proud of our guys. When Chuck got hurt and we lost to Ole Miss it was doomsday. But our guys worked hard in practice mentally getting ready. I thought it was a great team win."

Gottfried said the team got a telephone call at halftime from Davis, who was in DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa recuperating from knee surgery.

Gottfried said, "Our defense in the second half was probably the key to us winning." After giving up 34 points in the first half, the Tide allowed the Tigers only 18 second half points.

Alabama played most of the second half in a zone defense, even though Auburn had some success with three-pointers in the first half. Gottfried said he considered changing, but "Our players had confidence in the zone."

The Tide defense turned in seven blocked shots and 11 steals.

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