After a terrible offensive night against South Carolina on Wednesday, the Tigers managed just 46 points in a 69-46 defeat to Alabama. In four halves of basketball and one overtime the last two games the Tigers have not managed to total 100 points, not a good sign with the SEC schedule into full swing. Coach Cliff Ellis said to credit Alabama's defense and outside shooting in Saturday's game.
"I have to congratulate Alabama," Ellis said. "They played a game in which the early part of the game they really nailed down the three-point shot. That's where the game got away. The three-point shooting of Alabama and getting to the free throw line and making plays. We felt like we could stop their inside game and in the first half we did, but it was the three-point shots that really gave them a lift."
Out-played in every phase of the game, the Tigers (10-5, 1-3) put up very little fight against an Alabama (10-4, 2-1) team that appears to be hitting its stride at just the right time. The 46 points was the lowest total for an Auburn team against Alabama since 1980 and the 23-point defeat in Tuscaloosa was the widest margin since 1975. Senior Kyle Davis said despite the disappointment of not playing well the team has to keep moving forward with what the Tigers are doing and trust in the system.
"We have got guys with strong minds," Davis said. "Back to back games we're not shooting well and our scoring percentage is down. We can't let that keep getting us down. We have just got to keep taking our shots and eventually those shots will go down.
"If you go out there and miss three shots in a row you have got to get it in your mind that the next shot is going to go down. Our team has that mentality and that's why even though we were missing shots we kept shooting the ball. Hopefully, the next game our shots will fall."
In a first half of basketball better forgotten for the Auburn squad, the Tigers shot just 30.8 percent from the floor and made only 1-10 from outside the arc. Turning the ball over an additional 11 times added up to a pathetic 20 minutes of basketball that left the visitors down 36-17 at the break thanks to a hot shooting Alabama club that made 45.8 percent in the first half, but a solid 6-8 from behind the arc.
The Tigers got off to a solid early start in the opening minutes of the game behind the strong play of Killingsworth in the paint. Working against Alabama's man-to-man defense, Auburn was able to get the ball inside and let Killingsworth use his speed and strength advantage to take the ball to the basket for three easy buckets. Leading 8-2 after a Brandon Robinson dunk, the Tigers appeared to be in good shape, but things turned quickly with a change in defense for Alabama.
Marco Killingsworth takes the ball to the hole against Alabama Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
Switching to a 2-3 zone look just minutes into the opening half, Coach Mark Gottfried turned the game around. Alabama hit back-to-back three pointers by Earnest Shelton and Antoine Pettway to tie the game after the first timeout. Trailing 13-8 Robinson went down after re-injuring his left ankle, an injury suffered at Vanderbilt, and from that point forward it was all Crimson Tide. Before the run would come to an end on a Quinnel Brown three, Alabama would outscore Auburn 31-4 and put the game away before intermission. The Tigers went more than eight minutes without a point during the run that allowed the Crimson Tide to put it out of reach.
"I think when Brandon Robinson was lost that was a huge blow and it decimated us," Ellis said. "I'm not going to take anything away from Alabama because they deserved to win the game and we need to do some more things, but we just are not a very healthy basketball team. Losing Brandon Robinson very early was a big blow."
The second half was much of the same as Alabama changed its strategy and took advantage of the Tigers on the boards to get several easy put-backs in the lane. With Auburn shooting better in the second half the lead still managed to get to 26 when Pettway made his second three-pointer of the night with 14:37 remaining.
If not for the shooting of Brown and the play of Killingsworth the game would have been one for the record books for sure. Brown played one of his better games of the season and finished with 12 points on 4-10 shooting, including 4-9 from three-point range. Not including Killingsworth, Auburn's starters managed just nine points for the game and shot a measly 16.7 percent on 3-18 shooting.
"We didn't solve the 2-3 zone of Alabama and if we don't do a better job than that we are going to see it until the end of the season," Ellis said. "They collapsed and really and truly we didn't do a good enough job of stopping the three-point shot in the first half and they took away our inside game which is our strength. By collapsing a 2-3 zone, and it was a basic 2-3 zone, it kept us from getting the ball inside the way we needed to."
Killingsworth led the way for the Tigers with 17 points on 8-12 shooting from the floor. Besides Killingsworth and Brown no other Tiger player reached double figures in the game. Ian Young scored six points after being benched for the opening minutes of the game due to team rules violation, but he was the only other player to score more than four points for the Tigers as they made just 18 field goals in 40 minutes.
Davis had just one point and six rebounds in 27 minutes of action. Point guard Lewis Monroe started for the first time this season and scored just two points on free throws in the game.
The Tigers return to action Wednesday night when they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks at 7 p.m. at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The Razorbacks come in at 9-6 overall and 1-3 in SEC play following an 86-78 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday.