Tide Edges Tigers With Huge Free Throw Edge

Auburn led almost the entire game in Tuscaloosa, but a last-second tip-in allowed Alabama to hold off the Tigers.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Auburn led most of the night, but Alabama pulled out a 51-49 SEC basketball victory with a tip-in by JayMychal Green with three-tenths of a second remaining on Wednesday night at Coleman Coliseum.

Auburn played well enough to win defensively, limiting the Tide to 26.2 percent field goal shooting. The Tide made just eight two-point field goals and three treys in the game. However, the home team feasted at the foul line with 40 free throw attempts to 19 for the visiting Tigers.

Auburn hit 42.9 percent of its field goals making 18-42 shots.

The Tigers led 41-29 with 11:03 in the second half on a three-pointer from the corner by Earnest Ross, who was one of four Tigers who fouled out in the second half as the home team made its comeback. The group included Kenny Gabriel, Rob Chubb and Adrian Forbes.

Alabama took its first lead at 44-43, appropriately considering the theme of the night with Green making a pair of free throws with 2:54 to play as Gabriel fouled out.

The Tigers pulled ahead again with a runner by Tony Neysmith with 2:31 to play. Another bank-in, runner by the backup point guard, this one with just under 14 seconds remaining, tied the game at 49-49.

Alabama called a timeout with 7.6 seconds left. The team's leading scorer for the season, Anthony Mitchell, missed a shot, but the tip-in by Green, who scored 17 points, was the game winner.

"We had them on the ropes for the better part of the game," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "At the end of the day I?told the guys a couple of things.

"Number one, this loss is on me, not on them," Barbee said. "They did everything I asked them to do. I haven't done a really good job of teaching these guys how to win. That is clear.

"The last thing I told them that there is a huge difference between playing hard and fouling," the coach said. "As you look at the discrepancy at the foul line, every one of them was deserved because we fouled. I must not have done a good job of teaching the guys to play position defense without fouling."

Commenting more specifically on the foul shot differential, Barbee said, "There were a lot of free throws--we didn't shoot them. It is what it is. You are not going to get the benefit of the whistle. It is just not going to happen on the road in an environment like that for whatever the reason. With that being said, we still played good to win the game."

The loss dropped Auburn's record to 2-11 in the SEC and 8-18 overall. Alabama, which had already clinched the SEC West, improved to 11-2 in the league and 19-8 overall.

"I didn't think they were good enough to beat us on their first shot and they weren't, but we gave up 18 offensive rebounds," Barbee said. "I am proud of the way they fought, I am disappointed with how I coached this game. We were in a position to win and I didn't do enough to get them over the hump."

Auburn's defense allowed the Tigers to lead the entire first half. The Tigers jumped out to an 11-1 lead and were on top 13-3 before Alabama hit its first field goal on a three by Senario Hillman with 12:07 left in the half.

The home team managed to tie the game at 14-14, but the Tigers scored six uncontested points and built the lead to as many as 12 points at the 3:40 mark after Earnest Ross hit both ends of a one-and-one at the foul line.

However, Alabama cut the lead to 31-25 by halftime. "If we could score at all, period, we would have been up 35 or 40 at halftime if we had a decent offensive team, Barbee said. "Because we can't score it is a six-point game at halftime."

The Tide hit just 5-22 field goals (22.7 percent) in the first half while Auburn made 13-23 (56.5 percent shooting). The Tide kept the game close by making 13-14 free throws while Auburn was just 4-9 at the foul line in the first half.

For the game Alabama held a slim 35-34 rebounding edge and the Tide turned the ball over 19 times while Auburn had 23 turnovers, a number that irked Auburn's coach. The Tide hit 2-12 threes and 27-40 free throws while Auburn made 10-19 free throws and 2-12 threes.

"Defensively, we did a lot of good things," Barbee said. "I thought our zone was really effective."

Alabama coach Anthony Grant said, "We got the win. You've got to give Auburn credit. I thought they came in and had a great game plan against us and did a great job. You've got to give their kids credit for how hard they fought. We feel very fortunate to win the game today.

"We're thankful our guys were able to step up and get some turnovers that gave us some extra possessions," Grant said. "We made some plays at the end and we were able to win it."

Commenting on his team coming back, Grant said, "Well give Auburn credit. I think they had a lot to do with us not being able to get in rhythm. When you look at the final numbers and you see 26 percent from the field, 16 percent from the three-point line, missed 13 free throws and turned it over 19 times. You have to wonder how you win.

"Thankfully, we were able to make enough plays and get enough points to come out ahead," Grant added.

Ross led the Tigers in scoring with 10 points while Gabriel and Forbes scored seven apiece for the Tigers, who got points from all 10 players who saw action.

Ross said it was tough to be sidelined after fouling out with the game on the line. "Yes, it is very tough to sit on the sideline and not be able to contribute and help my team offensively and defensively to try to win the game. I'm proud of how our guys fought though. We fought to the end and that's all we can do.

"Unfortunately, I wasn't on the court to, like I said, help my team win," Ross said. "I wish we could have pulled it out, but you know sometimes it just happens like that. We just broke down defensively at the end of the game and they just hit a great shot. It was a great play."

The Tigers return to action with a home game on Saturday vs. Arkansas that is scheduled to start at 12:47 p.m. CST.

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