Tigers Miss "Zillion" Chances, Lebo Says

Alabama's late run carries the Tide to a victory over the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Leading most of the game, Auburn folded down the stretch and allowed Alabama to escape Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum with a 56-52 SEC basketball victory on Wednesday night.

The Tigers scored only two baskets in the final five minutes as they allowed the Tide to even its league record at 1-1 while the Tigers fell to 0-2 in SEC play.

A three-point basket from the corner by Alonzo Gee with 2:17 left tied the game at 50-50. A pair of free throws by the six-foot-six freshman with 1:39 put the visitors ahead after a turnover by the Tigers.

Another turnover gave the Tide a chance to push the lead to 53-50 after freshman Richard Hendrix hit one of two free throws with 47.6 seconds remaining.

A third Tiger turnover appeared to doom the home team after Ronald Steele hit a pair of free throws with 28.8 seconds left, but Auburn got a chance to send the game into overtime.

Frank Tolbert scored inside with 21.1 seconds left and was fouled. Rasheem Barrett got the rebound. AU looked for a quick shot, but called timeout with 13.4 seconds to set up a final play.

The Tigers were trying to use a Barrett pick to set up a three-pointer for senior Ronny LeMelle, but the Tide defense covered the play and freshman forward Josh Dollard put a long shot for three that he called "a prayer" that was off target. "We had a three-point play ready to go, but they crowded our man and it didn't work."

Gee, who added a free throw with 3.5 seconds left, iced the game and finished with 17 points, 10 over his average.

Auburn was also led by a freshman as Barrett scored 14 for the Tigers, who hit just 25.9 percent of their second half shots.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said his team missed "a zillion" chances to score points or make momentum plays throughout the game.

Tide coach Mark Gottfried, who improved his record to 3-0 vs. Lebo's Auburn teams, said, "We were fortunate to win." He added, "It seemed like our guys kept making key plays at key times."

Coaches and players on both teams agreed that Auburn had a lot more success in the first half attacking the Tide man to man defense and the Tigers struggled in the second half when Bama switched to a zone.

"They missed some shots they normally make," said Tide guard Ronald Steele. "Richard and those guys have long arms and can make it tough to shoot over them."

For the night, as a full house of 10,500 watched the action, the Tigers hit 38.9 percent from the field and just 27.8 percent from three point range. AU also struggled at the foul line, making just 5-11 shots. The Tide hit 41.2 percent of its threes and 13-19 free throws.

Auburn could have overcome the poor shooting night if it had done a better job on the boards. The Tigers were out-rebounded 42-27, which easily trumped the Tide turning the ball over 19 times, four more than Auburn.

Josh Dollard scores for the Tigers.

Dollard scored 11 points for the Tigers and another freshman forward, Korvotney Barber, added eight points. LeMelle led the Tigers on the boards with seven rebounds.

Bama got 15 points from Steele and Jermareo Davidson added 12 points and led all rebounders with 13. Gee had 10 rebounds to go with his 17 points.

The Tigers took their first lead when Quantez Robertson scored a fastbreak layup and Barrett followed that at the 8:44 with a runner on a fastbreak putting the Tigers up 17-15.

At halftime the Tigers led 34-27, their largest margin of the period as Dollard's three-point shot to beat the buzzer bounced in to the delight of the crowd.

Auburn shot 51.9 percent in the first half to 43.5 percent for the Tide, which held a 17-11 rebounding edge in the first 20 minutes. Alabama had eight first half turnovers, two more than the Tigers.

Barrett led all scorers at intermission with 11 while Gee and Hendrix led the Tide with seven.

The Tide cut the lead to two with 7:53 left on a rebound basket by Davidson to make the score 44-42. The Tide cut the lead to one at the 5:31 mark at 46-45 when Davidson hit one of two free throws.

Daniel Hayles scored a basket at the 4:28 to put AU ahead by three and another one with 2:39 left to make it 50-47, but the turnovers down the stretch doomed the Tigers to a sixth straight loss to the Crimson Tide.

"Defensively, we did a good job," Lebo said. "We couldn't make the big ones when we needed to. There were four or five plays that we didn't make that we have have, and that's the difference in basketball games."

The Tigers return to action on Saturday at 5 p.m. CST in Gainesville against No. 2 ranked Florida.

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