Tigers Fall To Tide In Heartbreaking Fashion

Despite a strong overall performance and a career high for Ian Young the Tigers fell one point short of beating Alabama Tuesday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite playing one of their best three-point shooting games of the year while getting a career-high 28 point performance from Ian Young and leading by as many as 12 early in the second half, the Auburn Tigers fell to Alabama 72-71 Tuesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

The loss drops Auburn to 13-11 overall and 4-9 in SEC play, ending any hope for an at-large bid to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

"You have to say Alabama is a better team," Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis said. "They beat us twice and we have to concede that and they deserve all the credit in the world. I thought our team played hard, fought. We got the looks and they got one point."

The final minute of the game was one of the most intense of the year as with 1:15 remaining Young capped his big offensive night with two foul shots to give Auburn a three-point lead.

Then, with the coliseum louder than it has been all season, Alabama point guard Antoine Pettway hit a layup with 49 seconds left to bring the Tide to within one. On the ensuing possession the Tigers got a solid look to Marco Killingsworth on the baseline, but he missed the shot and Alabama got the rebound.

After bringing the ball down and calling a timeout, Alabama ran a couple of screens and forward Emmett Thomas got lose at the top of the key and was shooting a three-pointer when Kyle Davis fouled him.

Thomas hit two of the three shots to give Alabama what would be a 72-71 win after Quinnel Brown's three-pointer from the wing wouldn't go with just over one second remaining.

Thomas said the final Bama shot was supposed to go to either Kennedy Winston or Earnest Shelton. "During the timeout something came over me and said, ‘Emmett, you really haven't made no shots the second half.' I just told myself, ‘Emmett, you have to make a play--whether it is a rebound, offensive rebound, you have to make a play.'

"During the possession, I was wide open for a minute," said Thomas, whose father played basketball for the Tigers. "They swarmed the ball. When Kyle (Davis) jumped at me, I knew he was going to hit me so I just drawed a foul. Right then, I knew I was going to make a play. After I missed the first free throw, I just came down and believed in myself and that is what happened."

Ian Young was 9-18 from the field and 4-4 at the foul line.

After Thomas missed his first free throw and made the next two, Auburn threw a pass past the halfcourt line to Brandon Robinson and quickly called timeout to set up the last play. Young was the man called on to take the basketball.

"They double-teamed me and Quinnel was open in the corner and instead of me forcing a bad shot with two people on me I kicked it to the wing for the open shot," Young explained.

With 17:11 remaining in the game the Tigers led by 12, but Kennedy Winston got hot for the Tide and things turned around quickly. The sophomore scored 17 in the second half and led the Tide on a 19-8 run over the next eight minutes to give Alabama the lead at 58-57. It was Alabama's first lead since being up 30-27 with just over three minutes remaining in the first half.

"Winston caught fire," Marco Killingsworth said about what changed the game. "We were playing good D on him, but he just got in those little roles."

Ellis added that he thinks Winston is a special talent. "You have got to keep a fresh body on him," the coach said. "That is a great player. He is going to be at the next level. He is one of the top five players in our league. He showed that tonight."

Along with Winston's strong performance, Young put on one of his own hitting 6-12 three-pointers. The junior guard also added five rebounds and two assists in the loss.

However, Young said he could care less about his numbers. "I would have two and win or zero and win than have whatever I had today--no satisfaction at all," he said.

Marco Killingsworth had a solid night for the Tigers in the loss in 28 minutes of court time.

On the night, the Tigers shot 36.8 percent from the floor and 44.6 percent from behind the arc. The second half shooting for Auburn was just 27.6 percent, down from 46.4 at halftime when the Tigers had built a 43-35 lead.

Alabama, which moves to 14-10 overall and 6-7 in SEC play, hit 43.5 percent of its shots and 35.3 percent of its three-point attempts. The Tide out-rebounded the Tigers 40-35 after leading 22-11 at the half. Alabama also finished the game with ten turnovers after having nine in the first half. Auburn turned it over 11 times in the game. The Tide also outscored AU in the paint 24-18.

At halftime Coach Tommy Tuberville and the football Tigers received the ODK Sportsmanship Trophy presented annually to the winner of the Auburn-Alabama football game. On Tuberville's right is noseguard T.J. Jackson.

Ellis said that despite the loss his team played some of its best basketball and he noted a lot of that was due to a big spark. "This guy to my right (Young) was busting the zone," Ellis said. "That was the best we have played against the zone, but we have been better. This is typical of the SEC, but since the Georgia game we have played well. We have come up short, but everybody is good."

For Alabama Jermareo Davidson was a big threat to go along with Winston. Davidson scored 15 points and added eight rebounds in the victory and was a big factor in the outcome. Pettway added six points and 12 rebounds, which is huge for a point guard. And Thomas added nine for the Tide.

Ellis noted that Davidson did exactly what he had to do for his team. "They have got so many three-point shooters and you have to guard them so you can't go down and get him and it allows him to play one on one," he said. And he did a great job with that. He did what he is supposed to do."

For the Tigers, Killingsworth had 17 points and 12 boards to go over the 1,00 point and 500 rebound marks in his career. Brandon Robinson added seven points and three rebounds and Lewis Monroe had seven points and eight assists in the loss.

Following such a tough home loss to break the Tigers' streak of seven consecutive victories over the Tide at home, Ellis said there was only one was his club could feel.

"Everybody is kind of hurt," the coach noted. "You just don't like to lose, but like I told our team when you put your heart and soul into it it is hard to swallow, but all you can control is playing as hard as you possibly can and doing the best you can and that is the kind of game it was."

With winning the SEC Tournament the Tigers' only hope of making the NCAA Tournament, Ellis says that he simply has to focus his attention forward to the next game and keep trying to

Since the Georgia game and since we have been somewhat healthy we have played with everybody home or away, it hasn't mattered," the Tigers' coach said. "I am counting on us doing the same thing against Tennessee. That is the only team I haven't seen, but they will be very good."

Retired Auburn dean of students James E. Foy leads the crowd in a War Eagle.

Tide coach Mark Gottfried said he wasn't sure he could explain his team's two straight road victories at Mississippi and Auburn after struggling away from home all season. "I don't know," he said. "There is no magic formula. I think it is hard to win on the road in our league, especially when you are not a clearly dominant team.

"Kentucky last year was better than all of us. Mississippi State this year, I think, has won on the road impressively, but if you are not a dominant team we are all out there just fighting and struggling like crazy on the road.

"The thing that I like about our team is that although we have come up short, we really haven't gotten beat bad anywhere," Gottfried added. "They are fighting and playing as hard as they can. The lesson is just keep playing hard and staying positive with each other and you are going to get some breaks."

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