Tigers Hope to Extend Winning Streak Vs. Bama

Auburn and Alabama resume their basketball rivalry in the regular season finale for both teams on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn men's basketball team will try to extend its winning streak vs. cross-state rival Alabama as the Tigers close the regular season on Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.

Jeff Lebo's Tigers will be trying to go over the .500 mark for the season by winning for a fifth straight time in the rivalry. The game will be televised on the SEC Network beginning at 12:30 p.m. CST.

"We have a lot of respect for them," Lebo says. "We are going up there to play our state rival. We are playing pretty well right now and we have to keep it going."

The Tigers closed their home schedule with an 89-80 victory over SEC West leader Mississippi State and will be trying to win for a third straight time. Auburn is 15-15 overall and 6-9 in SEC play.

Alabama, which is 15-14 overall, is 5-10 in the conference after winning 79-70 at South Carolina on Wednesday night while the Tigers were winning 89-80 on Senior Night in what Lebo called an emotional game in what was the last scheduled basketball contest at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"Offensively, we were very efficient," Lebo says of his team's last outing. "We were getting good looks and making them. We didn't turn it over for the most part. Offensively, we were very solid. Defensively, they (Mississipi State) are hard to guard.

"Offensively, really the last six games, we have been pretty good," Lebo adds.

If Auburn can win at Tuscaloosa, where they have won on two of their past three road trips, the Tigers will increase their winning streak vs. the Tide to five, the longest since Auburn defeated Alabama seven consecutive times from March 2, 1968 to Feb. 13, 1971.

One of the reasons the Tigers are playing better offensively is the spark provided by Tay Waller. He has scored better than 20 points in Auburn's last four games.

Waller has hit 27-42 three-point attempts and averaged 26.5 points in his last four games. His season average, after a slow start due to an injury, is up to 15.7 points per contest. DeWayne Reed leads the Tigers at 16.1 points per contest.

Tay Waller is averaging 6.75 made three-pointers in his last four games.

Lebo says he believes his team is playing better basketball than it did early in the season. "One thing I think hurt us more than anything was having Tay hurt early," he notes. "It took him a lot of games to get his shot back and getting back into the swing of things. When he is healthy and playing well, it makes an entirely different team."

Alabama's top scorer is Mikhail Torrance, a 6-5 senior guard who is averaging 15.5 points per contest. The Tide's number two scorer, JaMychal Green, was suspended for the South Carolina game on Saturday and his status for Saturday is not known. He averages 14.8 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds.

The next leading scorer for Coach Anthony Grant's team is 6-6 freshman forward Tony Mitchell, who averages 8.9 points plus 5.6 rebounds.

Auburn is in fourth place in the SEC West at 6-9 trailing Mississippi State at 9-6, Ole Miss at 8-7 and Arkansas at 7-8. Alabama can tie the Tigers in the conference with a win and LSU is last in the West at 1-14.

"You look at the SEC West, and you look at some possessions going a different way, you could have Alabama and Auburn maybe at the top and Arkansas and Mississippi State at the bottom," Lebo says. "There have been a ton of close games in the league. How you manage them could be the difference between 20-10 and 10- 20."

Lebo points out for his team to win on Saturday it needs to avoid cold stretches. "We haven't been consistent playing 40 minutes on the road like I would like, but if we can learn how to do that in the last road game that would be awesome," he says.

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