Auburn, Ala.--Dominated on the boards on a night Auburn’s point guards were also thoroughly out-played by visiting Alabama, the Tigers dropped a 79-68 SEC basketball game on Tuesday night to their archrival.
Alabama finished the game with 40 rebounds, 14 more than the Tigers. “They killed us on the boards,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
Point guards K.C. Ross-Miller and Malcolm Canada finished the night with a bagel in the scoring column. Ross-Miller, who scored 38 points the past two games, was 0-7 from the field and finished with five assists and three turnovers. Canada was 0-6 from the field and finished with three assists and one turnover.
“It’s a real negative mark on this team and this program as we try to rebuild,” Pearl said of losing the season series to the Tide. “I didn’t coach well. I didn’t do a good job tonight, I told the team.”
Pearl said Alabama performed well, much better than in the first matchup in Tuscaloosa when the Tigers had a chance to win until the closing seconds.
“That was about as bad as we have played,” said Pearl, noting the Tide’s size and athleticism caused the Tigers major problems as a sellout crowd at Auburn Arena tried to spark the home team to victory.
The Tigers wasted a strong performance from Antoine Mason, who led all scorers with 24 points. He hit 9-13 field goals, including 4-6 three-pointers.
“Our defense just didn’t stop anybody in the second half,” Mason said. “We just didn’t show up on defense.
“They got to the middle and they had wide open shots and that is not us,” the senior guard added. “We didn’t play to our capability.”
K.T. Harrell added 21 points for the Tigers and passed the 1,000 points mark for his two seasons at Auburn.
K.T. Harrell is fouled on Tuesday night vs. Alabama.
Cinmeon Bowers finished with 14 points, but made just 5-14 field goals to with seven rebounds. He had three steals, but negated those with four turnovers and too many out-of-control plays.
Levi Randolph led the Tide with 19 points while Retin Obasohan added 16, Rodney Cooper scored 13 and Shannon Hale finished with 11.
Alabama out-shot the Tigers 52.9 percent to 39.3 percent from the field. The Tide hit 9-21 threes and 16-21 free throws. Auburn hit 8-22 threes and 16-19 free throws.
Both teams led by as many as six points in the first half. Auburn built its advantage by getting the Tide in early foul trouble, but Alabama answered by getting hot from behind the three-point line.
The Tigers then made defensive adjustments that allowed the home team to catch the Tide by intermission and lead 36-33 at the break.
Halftime Numbers: The Tigers hit 10-28 first half field goals for 35.7 percent and 5-13 threes and 11-13 free throws. The Tide hit 11-24 field goals for 35.8 percent and made 6-10 free throws and 5-12 threes. Alabama led in rebounds at the break 21-16, but the turned the ball over 11 times, five more than the Tigers.
Mason led Auburn in first half points with 16 while Harrell scored seven. Mason hit 6-9 shots while making three of his five treys. Shannon Hale led Alabama in scoring with eight points.
Alabama took control midway in the second half, outscoring the Tigers 46-32 in the period as the visitors made 59.3 percent of their shots to 33.3 for the Tigers.
Auburn fell to 11-13 overall and 4-9 in the SEC while Alabama improved to 16-10 overall and 6-7 overall with a sweep of the home-and-home series vs. the Tigers.
“We looked slow and poorly prepared,” Pearl said. “That is my responsibility.”
The first-year Auburn coach added, “They did a good job taking advantage of their size and athleticism...We didn’t dictate tempo and we weren’t sharp offensively.”
Pearl said his team's physical limitations showed up on Tuesday night. “Jimmie Taylor, Michael Kessens and Shannon Hale, those guys are bigger than anybody we have, and Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper are really big strong guys at their positions. Retin Obasohan is a big physical player.
"We have played against teams that are bigger than us, but they did a good job of taking advantage of their size and their athleticism. There are a lot of great teams in this league. We are not scaring anybody."
Pearl added, "I was concerned because we played so well at Alabama. We did everything we needed to do to win the game, but we finished the game by not rebounding the ball and they made a couple of plays and we don’t take advantage of that. I knew Alabama would play better than they did at Alabama, and as a result they got the win.”
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn was outscored 32-22 for points in the paint and 16-5 in second chance points.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn’s bench finished with five points while the Tide’s scored 17.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Commenting on his team's point guard struggles vs. Alabama, Pearl said, “I give Retin Obasohan credit defensively. I give Justin Coleman credit defensively. They were quick. K.C. has been shooting the ball really well. He shot at practice the last couple of days, and he was shooting it great so I don’t want him to lose confidence. He missed his first couple and then he just was off a little bit and couldn’t find that rhythm tonight.”
Up Next: The Tigers travel to Lexington on Saturday to take on No. 1 ranked Kentucky.