Tide loses again on the road

Not only did losing to Auburn 77-68 prove that Alabama still has problems winning on the road, it also made one more statement to the SEC and the rest of the country. <br><br>Auburn is for real.

The Tigers won their ninth straight in defeating the Tide 77-68. Alabama (12-3, 2-2 SEC) drops two full games behind the Tigers in the standings. Auburn opens up the conference season 4-0, including two wins on the road. It was the first win by Auburn over a top 10 team since the 94-95 season when they defeated Arkansas.

"Auburn is a story," Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "They are legitimately a good team."

While Auburn executed their offense to near-perfection, the Tide once again could not shoot the ball well. Auburn shot 47 percent from the field, compared to 40 percent for the Tide. Auburn also outscored the Tide 36-18 on points in the paint, scored 20 points off turnovers compared to only eight for the Tide, and forced 17 Tide turnovers on defense.

"We're just a little bit off," Gottfried said. "Every part of our game is a little bit off, and we have to fix it."

The Tide held Marquis Daniels, Auburn's leading scorer, to 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, but the Tigers proved they had other weapons as well, as Marco Killingsworth, Derrick Bird, and Brandon Robinson each scored 13 as well. Lewis Monroe and Nathan Watson contributed to the balanced scoring attack with nine each.

"Anybody can step up and knock down big shots for us," Daniels said. "We're not just a one-man team."

Emmett Thomas led the Tide with a career-high 20 points, taking pressure off of Dudley as he was double or triple teamed nearly every time he touched the ball. However, Dudley played only five minutes in the second half as he committed three fouls, fouling out with about six minutes left in the game.

"It was real frustrating," Thomas said, of his foul problems. "I felt I was contributing a lot. I was thinking that if I could keep hitting these shots, it would take pressure off the other guys."

The first half belonged to Auburn from the start, as the Tigers jumped out to an 8-0 lead on two buckets each from Marco Killingsworth and Derrick Bird. The Tide chipped into the lead enough to where a long jumper by Thomas tied it at 11, and a three-point shot by Thomas gave the Tide a 14-13 lead.

It didn't hold up, as the Tigers benefited from strong inside play by Robinson, who poured in 11 points, including a three-point basket and a three-point play late in the half. The sophomore Robinson, who missed 13 games due to a suspension similar to Kennedy Winston's of Alabama, showed no ill effects from a layoff, as Auburn took a 37-29 lead into the break.

The Tigers shot 48.5 percent for the half, and scored 22 points in the paint to Alabama's eight. The only thing the Tide has going right was the play of Thomas, who scored 15 points off 6-of-8 shooting, a career high in the first half.

The Auburn intensity continued on into the second half. Thomas committed his third foul with 16:45 left in the game, and a minute and a half later, referee Mike Wood left the game with a strained calf. After a delay of a few minutes, Auburn came out hot, as Watson hit a three-point bucket and Robinson grabbed an offensive rebound and put it in for two.

The five-point deficit before Wood left the game was the closest the Tide would get, as the Tigers went up by as much as 14 before settling with the nine-point win.

"We just couldn't get over the hump," Dudley said. "We had certain spots where we just couldn't guard anybody."

The three Tide seniors will finish their careers without winning a game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"I was told before I came here that the seniors had never won here," Thomas said. "I wanted to come down here and win for the seniors, but we just couldn't get it going. It hurts a lot, but we just have to keep our heads up."

Dudley scored 17 points for the Tide, but only took nine shots. Mo Williams added 16, and Kennedy Winston scored 12, although his poor shooting on the road continued with a 2-of-11 effort from the field.

The Tide will return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to Ole Miss for an 8 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN as part of Super Tuesday.

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