Tigers Lack Toughness As They Fall to Tide

The Auburn men's basketball team loses its second game of the season at the Auburn Arena to Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.-- Bolstered by a strong shooting performance, Alabama dealt Auburn its second loss at the Auburn Arena this season, taking home a 68-50 win.

"Just disappointed with how we competed tonight," said head coach Tony Barbee. "Things got hard, things got tough, we went away. That's not the type of trait that I want in my ball club.

"We don't want to be the type of team that just when it's going good, that we ride that wave," added Barbee. "That's called front runner. It's the worst thing you can be in sports.

"And when things get tough, you've got to buckle up and we didn't tonight. Things got tough, and we went away. It's disappointing."

After Alabama built up a 35-24 halftime lead, the Tigers (13-11, 3-7) couldn't keep up offensively in the second half as the Tide (16-7, 5-4) made 50 percent of their shots from the field and fifty percent from behind the arc, stretching their lead to 20 on reserve guard Charles Hankerson's basket with 9:08 left in the game.

The Tigers were able to cut it to 11 with 5:31 left in the game, but got no closer.

With starting forward Tony Mitchell suspended for the game, Hankerson provided a spark of the bench for the Tide, hitting 3-of-5 from the behind the arc and finishing with 14 points. JaMychal Green led the Tide with 19 points, and Trevor Releford added 15.

The Tigers were also plagued by turnovers, including six from Varez Ward, who scored only three points on the evening after averaging 17.7 points over the last three games.

"It was disappointing how he played," Barbee said. "We have to get better guard play than that."

Alabama turned the ball over 17 times, but only gave up 12 points off of those turnovers. Auburn gave up 26 points on its 20 turnovers, a key statistic in the game.

Frankie Sullivan led all scorers with 21 points, while Kenny Gabriel was held to eight.

"It's embarrassing," Sullivan said of the way the Tigers performed. "Everyone knows it's a big rivalry, and to come out and not play to our potential or give the fans what they came here to see tonight is embarrassing."

After good performances from the free throw line in recent games, the Tigers struggled from the charity stripe, making only nine of their 20 attempts.

Auburn got off to a fast start behind spot-on shooting from Rob Chubb, who hit his first four shots to give the Tigers an early 10-4 lead.

Kenny Gabriel scored eight points for the Tigers.

A Kenny Gabriel dunk gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead, but he was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, giving the Tide two free throws to keep the score close.

The momentum seemed to shift in the Tide's favor after that, and the Tigers were never able to recover. Barbee wasn't one to place the blame on the two technical fouls that drew the ire of Auburn fans in attendance, though.

"It had nothing to do with officiating," Barbee said. "We just didn't play well. Give Alabama credit. They came in here and played with a high level of confidence and at the end of the day, it came down to toughness. We got out-toughed. It's disappointing."

Tide coach Anthony Grant said he liked the way his team performed. "Our guys understood the challenge that we had, and I thought we came out with great energy," he said. "We weathered the storm early.

"Auburn came out with a lot of emotion early. Just really proud of the way our guys responded. We felt like from a style of play standpoint, we wanted to get the game up and down. I thought we were able to do that. I thought we were able to create some transition opportunities.

"We handled the changing defenses well tonight, and just overall, I think everybody that stepped on the floor tonight for us gave a great effort, and it was just a great win," Grant added.

The Tigers travel to Oxford on Saturday to face Ole Miss for the second time this season, with tip off slated for 6 p.m. CST. The Tigers won a double-overtime matchup over the Rebels at the Auburn Arena 69-68 on Jan. 14.

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