"It's big," says Tolbert, who is known as "Frank The Tank" for his physical and aggressive style of play. "I have been waiting two years for this. We lost to them four times in a row and each time we played them at home it was close so it is big being that it is Alabama and it is a conference game. It is even bigger that we beat a ranked team. It gives us more confidence."
Not only did the Tigers beat Alabama, the 81-57 Tiger victory should officially be declared a "beatdown" and an historical one at that. Auburn's margin of victory was the largest in school history for an unranked Tiger team vs. a ranked opponent. The previous high was in an 82-63 victory over Kentucky on Jan. 13, 1984.
Alabama came into the contest ranked No. 10 nationally, but left with a 15-4 overall mark and a 2-3 SEC record. Auburn improved to 3-3 in the SEC and 13-8 overall.
Jeff Lebo credited his team's good defense, which forced 17 turnovers, for being a key to victory as he picked up his first victory over Auburn's archrival since taking over as AU's head coach. Tolbert's hustle and quickness on the perimeter was a big factor in Auburn's success.
Frank Tolbert came up big for Bama.
"We executed our defensive scheme," Tolbert said of Auburn's trapping defense. "We were trying to make it hard for them to get into their sets. We executed our defensive scheme pretty good tonight--I wouldn't say perfect."
Auburn led most of the first half, but fell behind 36-35 at intermission. The Tigers jumped on the visitors coming out of the locker room and took command of the game and never gave it up after that.
Alabama tried to get back in the game with a man to man defense and the Tigers carved that up down the stretch like a tender turkey on a Thanksgiving Day table. Auburn scored inside and out, hitting 67.9 percent in the second half, up from 48.4 before intermission.
"We kept our composure," Tolbert said. "At the end of the first half we were kind of rushing shots, taking bad shots, you know. We came out in the second half and said we were going to be patient and work the ball inside and out and then tighten up our defense and box out. We executed that and our lead started to grow."
Tolbert and the Tigers had chances to beat Alabama the past two years, but couldn't make the plays down the stretch to seal the deal. Tolbert says more experience made a difference Tuesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, much to the delight of a packed house of 10,500 fans.
"I am not saying we have seniors or anything, we we have sophomores and juniors who played the majority of last year," he noted. "I feel that experience from last year has grown to this year so we can tell the freshman what to do and not to do and bring them along."