Missed Free Throws Lead To Tide Loss

A basketball team normally would be expected to shoot free throws well when it plays on its home court, the arena where it presumably practices said free throws. If so, color the Alabama basketball team abnormal.

Alabama fell to Auburn 77-73 in its final home game of the season Tuesday night, primarily because Bama missed 14 of its 29 free throw attempts. That sent most of a crowd of 13,265 home not as happy as it was at halftime when it watched Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide football team accept the ODK Foy Sportsmanship Trophy for its 2008 win.

At that point, the Tide led 39-29. That intermission margin was attained despite a 10-20 first half performance at the charity stripe.

Saban had Tide fans forgetting free throw misery by proclaiming that he was happy to accept the trophy "for this year, and for many years to come."

Auburn managed to win despite Alabama building as much as a 13-point lead in the second half.

"Not many coaches win down 13 on the road in the second half," said a giddy Jeff Lebo post-game. "That's the happiest I've seen our kids after a game in a long time.

"They struggled at the line, fortunately for us."

Five of those Tigers scored in double figures, led by Rasheem Barrett with 15. Kovotney Barber had a double-double with 13 points, 16 boards.

Frankie Sullivan had eight points, but hit the back-breaking hoop on a drive to goal with 11.1 seconds left to give the Tigers a four-point lead and the final margin.

"I saw the clock running down, and I saw the lane open," said Sullivan.

Said Alonzo Gee, whose Senior Night didn't go as planned due in large part to a 3-of-9 night at the line, "I think we just struggled tonight at the free throw line. I think we've got to work on the free throw line in practice and get better.

"Auburn executed their offense and played well. We didn't guard the ball as well."

Gee scored 17 points and grabbed eight boards in his final Coleman Coliseum outing. Late in the game, he stole a ball by diving on the floor and calling a heady timeout, seemingly sparking the Tide before it once again ebbed.

JaMychal Green scored 16 points and grabbed eight boards. He said he'll miss Gee, a senior playing his final home game.

"I learned a lot from him. I stole one of his post moves. He's a great part of this team, and he's a leader on this team. We're going to miss him," said Green.

Reflecting on the second half collapse, Green said Auburn "knocked down big-time shots. We missed our free throws. That's a lot of it."

Interim Tide Coach Phillip Pearson agreed.

"We felt like we'd been playing pretty well," Pearson said. "I didn't think we played as well tonight. Give Auburn some credit for that.

"One thing that hurt was had we made a few more foul shots, the game could have been 14 or 16 instead of 10 (at the half). Second half, I don't think we guarded them good enough. Problem is, when you go out and guard those 3-point shooters, they hurt you off the dribble. We gave them some critical second and third chances.

"We missed some critical foul shots. That's how I saw it."

The only other Tider in double digits was point guard Mikhail Torrance, who scored a dozen and dealt seven assists.

Auburn (20-10, 9-6 SEC) swept Bama for the second time in three seasons, and clinched the No. 2 seed in the SEC West and its accompanying bye in Tampa, site of the league tourney.

Bama (16-13, 6-9) will travel to Tennessee Sunday for an 11 a.m. tip on CBS-TV.

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