Tide Nips Pearl's Tigers With Late Rally

A late rebound basket put Alabama ahead for good on the way to a 57-55 SEC basketball victory over the visiting Auburn Tigers on Saturday night.

Cinmeon Bowers (above) calls for the ball while posting up near the basket.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--A rebound basket by Rodney Cooper with six seconds left allowed Alabama to take a 57-55 comeback SEC basketball victory over Auburn on Saturday night at Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama rallied from nine points down with 9:58 left in the second half to improve its record to 13-6 overall and 3-3 in the SEC. Auburn dropped to 10-9 overall and 2-4 in the league with a second straight loss.

“It was a competitive game,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Alabama made plays down the end to win and hit some rebound baskets. Levi Randolph was terrific down the stretch.”

After the Tide basket Auburn got the ball to near midcourt and called a timeout. Pearl set up a play for Tahj Shamsid-Deen to catch a pass and dribble to the basket after getting a screen from Cinmeon Bowers.

“It is a play we beat Arkansas with Stan Heath’s last year,” the coach said of his time at Tennessee. “I love the play.”

“Cim was supposed to set a screen on him with Tajh going left and didn’t get the screen set,” Pearl said. “Tajh could have been a little tighter to the ball...There was too much time between the time Tajh got the ball and the screen. If he gets the screen, Tajh comes through there clean and does whatever could do. They top-covered K.T. (Harrell) in that situation. It would be hard to get him the ball.”

Alabama coach Anthony Grant said the momentum changed with a steal and stuff by Levi Randolph immediately after Tide guard Ricky Tarrant was ejected for his second technical foul when he elbowed Harrell.

“That not only energized our team, but the whole building,” said Grant, who noted that he was pleased that his team made plays with the game on the line in the closing minutes.

“Auburn did a great job of controlling the tempo,” Grant said. “They wanted it to be a game played with a limited number of possessions. Give them credit.”

Auburn’s Pearl said, “I thought it was the best game we have played on the road so far. We were in control. I thought when Tarrant was disqualified, coming out of the possession after the free throws we turned it over and Randolph jumped through that passing lane and got the crowd going and got them back into it right away. I thought that was a crucial turnover.”

K.T. Harrell led all scorers with 22 points and two other Tigers finished in double figures. Cinmeon Bowers scored 14 points while adding eight rebounds. Antoine Mason finished with 13 points.

K.T. Harrell drives to the basket for the Tigers.

“We didn’t really box out and rebound and they were really crashing the boards,” Harrell said of what happened in the final minutes. “We just weren’t checking out. When you get second-chance points that gives you more energy and more momentum. That is how it quickly changed. As soon as they started getting second-chance points all of the momentum started going to their side.”

Pearl said the lack of a box out was what allowed Alabama to score the game-winning basket. "One of our guards didn't rotate. He didn't rotate over in coverage and we had a guard on a big. If we had rotated then at least maybe we would had a checkout or even a foul opportunity. He just came in there clean."

Alabama’s only player in double figures, Randolph, scored 18 points and pulled in seven rebounds. Tarrant added nine points for the Tide.

Alabama held a 31-29 advantage in rebounds while turning the ball over 13 times, one more than the Tigers.

Auburn hit 20-51 field goals for 39.2 percent while making 3-11 threes and 12-15 free throws. The Tide made 20-45 field goals for 44.4 percent and hit 5-18 threes and 12-16 free throws.

“We put ourselves in a position to win tonight,” Harrell said. “It was probably our best game on the road.

Halftime Numbers: The Tide led 25-23 by hitting 8-21 field goals, 3-8 threes and 6-8 free throws. Auburn made 9-28 field goals, 3-9 threes and 2-2 free throws. Alabama led 17-16 in rebounds and turned the ball over eight times, one more than the Tigers. Harrell led the Tigers in scoring with seven points while Mason scored six. Randolph led the Tide in scoring with seven points.

Auburn led much of the second half after pulling ahead 31-30 on a jumper by Bowers less than three minutes into the period. For the game Auburn led for 29 minutes and 13 seconds.

The Tigers stretched the margin to 44-35 on a basket and free throw at 9:58 by Mason for the largest lead of the night by either team.

Auburn’s last lead was 50-48 with 2:15 to play.

Worth Noting: Both teams shot much better in the second half. Auburn improved from 32.1 percent to 47.8 percent in the second half. Alabama improved from 38.1 percent to 50 percent.

Stat of the Game: Both teams made 20 field goals and 12 foul shots. The difference was Alabama hitting five threes to three for the Tigers.

Box Score

Up Next: The Tigers will be at home for an 8 p.m. tipoff on Tuesday vs. Texas A&M.

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