Bama Basketball Lets One Get Away

Alabama and Auburn seem to be teams going in different directions in basketball, but on Saturday afternoon at Auburn the Tigers were the ones headed upwards, while the Crimson Tide threw away an opportunity to get an important road victory.

Alabama senior guard Mikhail Torrance has been a key to a number of Crimson Tide victories this year. He had never won at Auburn's Beard-Eaves Coliseum, and now he never will. And he'll probably remember at least a couple of errors on his part that enabled the Tigers to pull out an improbable 58-57 victory.

With 22 seconds to play, Torrance was at the foul line with a one-and-one free throw opportunity and Alabama holding a 57-56 lead. He missed the first shot and Auburn had the ball, trailing by one.

With 12 seconds to play, Auburn's DeWayne Reed had two free throws. He made the first to tie the game at 57-57, and then missed the second shot. Torrance was bringing the ball up court where Alabama would presumably have a shot to win. Otherwise, the game would go to overtime.

But Torrance wasn't paying attention, had the ball stripped at midcourt, and the Tigers' Lucas Hargrove was fouled with 3.1 seconds to play. Hargrove made the winning free throw. He missed the second, but Alabama's long pass went out of bounds as time expired.

Alabama fell to 13-8 overall and 3-4 in Southeastern Conference games. Auburn improved to 11-11, including a 2-5 SEC mark.

Alabama returns to action Thursday when the Crimson Tide hosts Florida at 6 p.m. CST. That game will pit first year Bama Head Coach Anthony Grant against Gators Coach Billy Donovan. Grant was an assistant at Florida under Donovan for 10 years (1996-2006).

Saturday's game did not start well for Bama. The Tigers scored the first seven points of the game. But Alabama overcame that and had a 27-24 lead at halftime. In the second half, Alabama opened up a seven-point lead at 40-33, but the Tigers retook the lead with a 10-0 run. With 3:30 to play, Justin Knox made a short shot and was fouled and made the free throw to give Alabama a 52-51 lead and Bama did not trail again until the winning free throw by Hargrove.

"Auburn came out and played a great game," Grant said. "For us, there were too many turnovers and not enough defense. We had opportunities and didn't take advantage of those opportunities. Auburn deserves a lot credit, they had the resolve to pull the win out."

Torrance led Alabama in scoring, in spite of only 4-12 field goal shooting. Alabama made more points from the field than Auburn, but as has been the case in most of Bama's losses this year, the Tide saw the opponent with many more free throw attempts. Auburn made 15-25 fouls shots, Bama 11-15.

Pre-game conjecture was that Alabama, which has been very good against three-point shooting, would have a tough time with Auburn, which is a very good perimeter shooting team. Bama won that battle in losing the war. Auburn hit only 3-16 on treys, 18.8 per cent.

For the game, Alabama was 21-51 for 41.2 per cent from the field, while Auburn was 20-47, 42.6 per cent. Alabama had a 33-29 advantage in rebounds.

Alabama was hampered when sophomore inside post player JaMychal Green fouled out. He played only 24 minutes, scoring 10 points and pulling down five rebounds. Senario Hillman also had 10 points for the Tide.

Auburn's Tay Haller led all scorers with 20 points.

Alabama had an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers, including five each by Torrance and freshman Tony Mitchell. Torrance had six assists.

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