High-Energy Tigers End Streak, Dominate Bama

Auburn took control early for an SEC basketball victory on Thursday night, ending the team's six-game losing streak.

Auburn, Ala.--Chris Denson scored a career-high 32 points and the senior guard and his teammates played hard-nose defense as the Auburn Tigers defeated Alabama 74-55 on Thursday night.

In the process the Tigers ended their 16-game SEC basketball losing streak that started after they defeated Alabama on the Tide's trip to Auburn Arena last year.

Denson hit 10-16 field goals, 11-14 free throws and pulled in seven rebounds.

Denson said the defense was a huge part of Auburn's win. "I felt like we played hard for all 40 minutes on the offensive end and the defensive end--especially on the defense."

Junior guard K.T. Harrell came through, too, as he scored 23 points and led the Tigers with 11 rebounds. The junior from Montgomery was 9-18 from the field and 4-4 at the foul line.

K.T. Harrell was a winner in his first opportunity to play in the Auburn-Alabama rivalry.

Together the guard tandem of Denson and Harrell combined for 55 points and 18 rebounds while the rest of the team combined for 19 points and 19 rebounds.

The Tigers improved to 9-9 overall and 1-6 in the SEC. Alabama, which has yet to win away from its homecourt this year, fell to 9-11 overall and 3-4 in the league.

The Tide put just one player in double figures, senior Trevor Releford, who scored 15 points.

"I am proud of the guys the way they fought," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "I told you with these guys the chemistry has been unbelievable and the fight and effort these guys have been putting forth every single day.

"Like I told the guys the whole week, let's don't think about wins or losses. Let's think about the process. Are we getting better and the answer to that is yes."

Barbee noted that he told his players if they kept working hard the "breakthrough would happen." He added, "The energy this week has been unbelievable. The effort has been great. I am proud of the guys and happy for them that they were able to finish one off and get the rewards for their hard work."

Auburn took control early with an aggressive man-to-man defense that put the Tigers up 9-0 at the first media timeout at the 15:34 mark.

Barbee said that point guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen did a good job of pressuring Alabama point guard Releford and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum was effective patrolling the middle.

Auburn built the lead into double figures, but Alabama cut the margin to 24-19 at the 3:32 mark. However, Auburn increased the lead to 30-22 as Allen Payne, who scored eight points while adding five rebounds, hit a jumper to beat the halftime buzzer.

That shot ignited the crowd, which also got excited at halftime when Coach Gus Malzahn and members of the Auburn football team picked up the ODK Trophy that is presented to the winner of the Tigers-Tide football game.

Interestingly, Alabama's SGA officials, who were supposed to present the award, were no-shows, claiming the road conditions were dangerous. However, that didn't keep away the fans who packed the arena.

"They were great all night, they were here early," Payne said of the crowd. After the game the players went into the student section to thank the fans for their support. "We appreciate The Jungle," Payne said.

Alabama coach Anthony Grant said, "I thought Auburn's energy from the jump was the difference in the game. They brought an energy to the game we weren't able to match."

Grant had praise for Denson and Harrell. "Those guys dominated the game, probably at both ends of the floor," he said.

K.T. Harrell dunks on the Tide.

Barbee said he was hoping to get a game in which both Harrell and Denson were in sync offensively. Harrell said that is what the Tigers "have got to do" to be successful.

"Tonight I think we both did a good job of being aggressive and making plays," Harrell said. "It felt good. It felt really good."

The Tigers built the lead back into double figures by the first second half media timeout at the 14:55 mark with the score 42-30 as the guards were effective in driving to the basket.

Denson said that Barbee and Harrell told him at halftime he needed to be more aggressive driving to the basket. "That was one thing I was fortunate to be able to do--attack, attack, attack and get to the (foul) line."

Unlike the first half the Tide wasn't able to make a run to the delight of the crowd of 9,102 that rocked Auburn Arena in a game that was postponed 24 hours due to a winter storm. Auburn's largest lead was 19 points with 2:49 to play.

Stat Of the Game: Auburn outshot Alabama 49.0 to 35.8 percent from the field.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Chris Denson, who has been struggling at the foul line this season, hit 11-14 times as he continually used his quickness to attack the basket. As a team the Tigers hit 22-28 free throws while Alabama made 14-20.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn enjoyed a 37-30 rebounding advantage and had 11 turnovers, two fewer than the Tide.

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