Newcomers Lead Tide Over Auburn
In fact, Alabama senior guard Mikhail Torrance had one of the most unusual moments imaginable. With Alabama having a 65-55 lead over Auburn with just under a minute to play, Torrance was fouled by Auburn star Tay Waller. Waller was also hit with a technical foul for the intentional hit.
As a result, Torrance was given four free throws. He hit them all with 57 seconds to play. And on the ensuing in-bounds play by Bama, Torrance drove the lane for a layup and made it with 53 seconds. His six points in four seconds expanded the Alabama lead to 16 points.
It also helped Torrance finish with 13 points despite 3-8 field goal shooting, including 0-3 on three-point attempts.
But the bulk of the credit for Alabama's win over Auburn goes to newcomer forwards, freshman Tony Mitchell and junior college transfer Chris Hines. N less an authority than Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo said, "I thought Hines and Mitchell were the keys to the game."
Hines hit 6-8 from the field–including 4-4 in the second half–for 13 points and had five rebounds and two blocked shots. Mitchell was good on 7-12 shots for a team-high 16 points and had seven rebounds.
Alabama improved to 16-15 overall and 6-10 in Southeastern Conference games. Auburn fell to 15-16 and is also 6-10 in league games. In the regular season meeting at Auburn, the Tigers defeated Alabama 58-57.
Next for Alabama is the SEC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Nashville. Alabama officials said the Crimson Tide moved up a spot with Saturday's win and some other events and is now the fourth seed from the SEC Western Division. Bama will play South Carolina at noon CST Thursday.
Alabama came into the Auburn game having just posted a 79-70 road win at South Carolina.
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant was asked about the momentum his team might have with the back-to-back conference wins. "I believe in one day at a time," he said. "I think this has been a week of growth for us. Winning two in a row in the league I think you can say there are some positive things we can build on and grow."
The bad news is that the winner of the Alabama-South Carolina draws Kentucky, overall champion and the number one seed from the East, in Friday's second round.
After leading by only one point, 31-30, at halftime, Alabama had a fast second half start and went out to a 38-32 lead. The Tigers closed to within a point, but could never catch the Tide which held a lead of single digits until Hines scored five straight points. He had back-to-back dramatic baskets with just under four-and-a-half minutes to play to push Bama to a 57-46 lead, then added a free throw with 3:36 to play to make it a 12-point margin.
Auburn never got closer than 10 after that.
Auburn hit its first two shots of the game, three-pointers by Tay Waller and DeWayne Reed, to take a 6-0 lead, but Bama scored the next eight points. Bama built as much as a five-point lead at 17-12, but the game was tied for the fifth time at 29-29 and Auburn took the lead at 30-29 before Anthony Brock made a nifty baseline drive and short jumper to give Alabama a 31-30 halftime lead. That was the third and final lead change of the game.
Alabama connected on 27-55 field goals, but made only 4-17 three-point shots. Charvez Davis made 3-6 of the three-point shots for his nine points.
Both coaches cited Alabama's defense. Auburn made only 22 of 62 field goal attempts, 35.5 per cent, and only 7-25 three-pointers, 28 per cent.
Waller led the Tigers with 20 points, but he made only 8-21 from the field and only 4-12 three-point shots. He had been shooting over 60 per cent from behind the arc in his last four league games.
Grant said, "There was a lot of emotion in the game today. I told the guys after the game it was great fight on our part. I thought we came out in the second half defensively and set the tone. We made them struggle from the field. When we were set with our defense I thought we were outstanding."
Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo said, "They are good defensively and match up pretty well with us. They have senior guards who have been through it. Their perimeter defense is pretty stout. They are a very solid defensive team."
Alabama won the rebound battle, 41-32, with Torrance the unlikely leader with 12 boards.
Bama outscored the Tigers by 44-28 in the paint and had an advantage of 17-8 on second chance points. Both teams had six fast break points. Alabama made 19 turnovers, Auburn 14, and the Tigers scored 18 points off Bama miscues, the Tide 10 points off Auburn turnovers.
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