Photography: Dakota Sumpter

Auburn Won 82-77 At Tuscaloosa to Sweep Basketball Season Series Vs. Alabama

Auburn's three-point shooting was too much for Alabama to handle on Saturday night.

Ronnie Johnson (above) shoots for the Tigers.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Five Tigers scored in double figures as Auburn defeated Alabama 82-77 on Saturday night to sweep the rivalry basketball series.

Senior guard Ronnie Johnson came off the bench to score 15 points for the Tigers while Danjel Purifoy and Jared Harper scored 14 apiece. Mustapha Heron added 13 for the Tigers and Bryce Brown came off the bench to contribute 12 points.

Auburn made 15-27 threes, which was the difference in the game as the Tide made 8-32 threes.

Auburn improved to 15-8 overall and 4-6 in the SEC. Alabama dropped to 13-9 overall 6-4 in the league.

"There are some places where you win where they don't count any different in the win/loss column, but they just matter more," Coach Bruce Pearl said. "Even when I was at Tennessee it mattered coming here because of the rivalry in football. Coming to Auburn it really mattered."

The Tigers built their lead to as many as 15 points with just over seven minutes to play before holding off a late rally by the Tide. Pearl called the win a team victory with the balanced scoring and lots of contributions off the bench.

"Alabama had no quit in them," he said of the Tide cutting Auburn's double figures lead in the closing minutes. "They obviously made plays down the stretch. We are a young basketball team and we weren't very organized. We panicked a little bit, but we came in here and played really good basketball.
"We came in and we ran stuff, we got big shots, and it was great to get Danjel Purifoy back," Pearl said. "I knew he was going to surface tonight and we needed him in a big way. We had to knock down shots and try not to get killed on the boards because Alabama is huge."
Purifoy said the win was special to him growing up a short drive from the Alabama campus. "Alabama was one of the first teams to recruit me, but I play for Auburn and this rivalry is important to us so I am going to do whatever I can to help us win."
Pearl said that Purifoy still isn't full speed with his ankle injury, but has never complained about it. Purifoy said he is making progress. "I was quicker than I have been," the redshirt freshman said. "I tried not to even think about it."

Alabama got 17 points apiece from Braxton Key and Corban Collins. "It was one of those night when they seemed to have everything going," Collins said of Auburn's shooting.

For the game the Tigers hit 27-53 field goals (50.9 percent) while Alabama hit 28-65 (43.1 percent). Both teams were 13-22 at the foul line. Alabama had a 47-28 rebounding edge and turned the ball over 15 times, one less than the visitors.

Photography: Marvin Gentry

Bryce Brown tries to take a charge vs. Alabama's Braxton Key.

The Tide jumped to a quick 8-2 lead, but the Tigers pulled head 13-12 at the 15:24 mark on a three-pointer by Bryce Brown, who had three of Auburn’s seven treys in the opening half. Alabama led for less than three minutes keeping the sellout crowd of 15,383 quiet much of the night.

Another three-pointer by Brown gave the Tigers their biggest lead in the half, 36-25, at the 6:08 mark.

Both teams shot well in the opening half. The Tigers made 16-29 field goals (55.2 percent) while the Tide made 15-31 (48.4 percent). Auburn hit 7-13 threes in the period and Alabama made 4-13. Auburn was 2-7 at the foul line while the Tide hit 5-8 free throws.

Auburn managed to lead 41-39 at halftime while being out-rebounded 24-10. The Tigers helped their cause by out-scoring the Tide 8-0 on fastbreak points while the AU bench outscored the Tide bench 26-13.

Johnson led the Tigers in the opening half with 12 points while Collins led the Tide with nine points.

Tide coach Avery Johnson said he was proud of the way his team "fought back," but added, "We just can't allow guys to shoot 15 threes on us. When you out-rebound a team by 20 you should win the game."

Pearl said, "We knew we were going to have to beat a team that was much bigger than us, a team that would pound you on the glass and they did...I thought our kids made big shots. We knew we had to knock down the three ball because of how big they are so we went small at four (power forward) almost the whole game and it paid dividends. We got great play at point guard, also."

Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn won the game despite being outrebounded 47-28.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn’s bench scored 35 points, seven more than the home game.

Stat of the Game: Auburn hit 7-13 threes in the first half and 8-14 in the second half.

Up Next: The Tigers will be at home for an 8 p.m. tipoff Tuesday vs. Mississippi State.

Tigers-Tide Box Score

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