Auburn Has Easy Time With Alabama

Mark Gottfried says after almost every Alabama basketball loss that he was pleased with his team's effort and that the other team made its field goals despite Bama players playing good defense. Conceding that Gottfried knows more about basketball than fans, almost no one who watches the Tide agrees with the coach's assessment.

Alabama blew a 10-point first half lead and an early second half lead as a very poor Auburn basketball team cruised to an easy 88-76 victory over the Tide in Auburn Sunday. Alabama had defeated Auburn by 20 points, 97-77, earlier this year.

Auburn's recipe for success was to out-hustle Alabama for loose balls, play much tougher defense than Bama, and knock down most of the many uncontested three-point shots against the Tide.

Alabama's offensive performance included a misleading 36 points in the second half after leading 40-39 at halftime. Alabama had only 25 points with a minute and a half to play in the game and Auburn satisfied to let the game play out. Defensively, Auburn scored about 15 points above its average. Bama allowed the Tigers' Lucas Hargrove, who averaged just over six points per game, to score 28. Hargrove's previous high had been 13 points against Miles College of Birmingham.

Auburn has been the hard luck team of the Southeastern Conference with huge losses to injury that have left the Tigers with the least numbers of scholarshipped players in the Southeastern Conference and among the fewest in the nation. Still, Auburn had plenty to rout Alabama.

A win would have gone a long way in helping Alabama avoid the basement of the SEC Western Division, but the Tide's back will be against the wall down the stretch to avoid that ignominy. With the loss Alabama fell to 14-13 overall and 3-9 in SEC play. Auburn improved to 14-11 overall and 4-8 in conference play.

Alabama will host Arkansas at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a game that will be regionally telecast by Raycom. Bama lost an overtime game, 71-67, to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville earlier this season.

Midway through the first half, Alabama built a 10-point lead at 23-13, but it took Auburn just over two and a half minutes to erase that advantage. Although the Tigers would lead by as many as five points down the stretch of the second half, Brandon Hollinger drove for a layup just before intermission to give Bama a 40-39 halftime lead.

When Hollinger hit a three-point shot early in the second half, Alabama had a 45-41 lead. But it was all Auburn from there. Back-to-back treys by the Tigers gave Auburn the lead for good. Auburn got its lead out to as many as 14 with just under eight minutes to play and Alabama had no run left. Senario Hillman got his first start of the year and when he hit a jumper for his 10th point to cut Auburn's lead to 69-61 with 6:25 to play there might have been an opening, but the Tigers closed it easily with an unguarded three-point shot.

Alabama had a size advantage over Auburn, but didn't take advantage. Richard Hendrix had only two shots at the end of the first half. He made a handful of uncontested shots when the game was just about over to finish with 16 points. He also had seven rebounds. Alonzo Gee had 18 points and nine rebounds. Mychal Riley fell and seemed to injure his wrist late in the game after he had scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Hillman with 10 points was also in double figures.

Auburn made 49 per cent of its field goal attempts (28-57). Alabama also made 28 field goals, in 67 tries for 42 per cent. Auburn had an advantage in three-point shots, 12-28 to Bama's 8-28. The Tigers also had an advantage in free throws, 20-25 to Alabama's 12-19. Alabama won the rebounding battle by a miniscule 38-35 against a team that had no player taller than 6-6 for more than half the game. Bama committed 13 turnovers (leading to 22 Auburn points), while the Tide was able to make only seven points off Auburn's eight turnovers.

Gottfried said, "You've got to give them credit. They stepped up and made a lot of tough shots. Some of them were guarded and some of them were open.

"They decided to play us a triangle and two and gave us all kinds of shots and we couldn't make them. We had guys wide, wide open and just couldn't make them. And around the rim we couldn't put them in. Our inability to make some open shots and our inability to stop them some times was the difference in the game."

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