Auburn's Shooting Goes Cold In Road Loss

Auburn's shooting touch abandoned the Tigers in the second half as they closed the regular season with a road loss on Saturday.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--A second half shooting slump was Auburn's downfall as the Tigers closed the regular season with a 73-61 SEC basketball setback at Alabama on Saturday.

Auburn made just 11-35 (31.4 percent) field goals in the second half while Alabama hit 15-29 (51.7 percent) in the final 20 minutes to pull out the victory.

Alabama broke a four-game losing streak in matchups vs. Auburn. "I was unaware of any streak," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "My approach is game to game. This was a big-game, intra-state rivalry."

Tay Waller had his fifth straight game of 20 or more points as he led the Tigers with a game-high 22 points. However, the senior guard made just 8-21 field goals.

Waller said he rushed some shots in the first half. "In the second half I got some better looks, I just didn't make the shots," he said.

Auburn went into the game with the possibility of being a third, fourth or fifth seed for the SEC Tournament in Nashville. The Tigers will go in as the fifth seed from the SEC West and will play fourth-seed Florida at 6:30 p.m. CST at the Bridgestone Center, which was formerly the Sommett Center.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said the second halves of road games have been a problem for his team and that was the case on Saturday.

Brendon Knox, who got into early foul trouble, played just 15 minutes. Knox scored six points and added three rebounds. That proved to be a major problem because Auburn's other inside offensive presence, Lucas Hargrove, struggled, too.

"Knox goes from 21 (points) to six and fouls and he is our low post presence in there," Lebo said. "We really become perimeter oriented because we couldn't score inside consistently and that was a big factor.

Jeff Lebo (left) talks with Brendon Knox after the senior picked up his third foul in the first half.

"Lucas struggled," Lebo added. "He struggled at both ends--scoring and a lot of times he was on (Chris) Hines or (Tony) Mitchell. He had a rough day today." Mitchell led the Tide in scoring with 16 points while Hines added 13 points as did Mikhail Torrance who added 12 rebounds on his Senior Day.

"It was a struggle for both teams offensively to score consistently," Lebo said. "We, offensively, were not particularly good. We didn't shoot the ball very well and a lot of that had to do with their defense...Their perimeter defense is pretty stout."

Commenting on Knox, Lebo said it is frustrating to watch the 6-10 center when he struggles. "Some nights he looks like 100 bucks, other times he looks like he has never played the game," the coach said.

The Tigers dropped to 15-16 overall and 6-10 in the SEC. Alabama tied the Tigers in the league at 6-10 and improved to 16-14 overall.

Dewayne Reed scored 17 points for Auburn, but the senior guard hit just 5-19 field goals and had four turnovers and just two assists in 27 minutes of play.

"It was frustrating that we didn't have an inside presence," Reed said. "It is kind of hard with me and Tay forcing shots. It is frustrating."

The Tigers didn't have anybody else step up offensively. Frankie Sullivan finished the game with five points, hitting 1-4 field goals, and Hargrove was 1-3 from the field and scored six points. Hargrove had seven rebounds and five of Auburn's 14 turnovers.

Alabama turned the ball over 19 times, but made up for that with its shooting and rebounding. The Tide won the battle of the boards 41-32.

Tay Waller launches a shot as Alabama coach Anthony Grant watches.

Auburn's largest lead was in the first half at 6-0 to the start of the game when Waller and Reed hit back to back threes. Alabama's largest lead in the first half was five at the 10:51 mark.

At intermission the Tide led 31-30 after hitting 46.2 percent of its shots to 40.7 for the Tigers.

Alabama turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, two more than the Tigers. Alabama led the rebounding 18-15 at the beak.

Auburn hit 4-14 threes in the first half while Alabama made 2-8. The Tide was 5-7 at the foul line in the first 20 minutes while Auburn made 4-6.

Alabama took the lead for good at the 14:18 mark of the second half on layup by Knox to make the score 40-38.

Hines put Auburn into a deep hole at the 4:10 mark with a layup that put the margin into double figures and then the Tide held on for the victory to the delight of most of the crowd of 15,383.

"There was a lot of emotion in the game today being Senior Day," Grant said. "I?told the guys after the game it was great fight on our part. It was somewhat sloppy to start."

Grant added, "I thought in the second half we came out defensively and really sent the tone."

Commenting on defending Waller, Grant said, "We wanted to try to harass him and make him play inside the three-point line today."

For the game Auburn shot just 35.5 percent, made 7-25 threes and 10-16 free throws. Alabama hit 49.1 percent from the field, 4-17 threes and 15-20 free throws.

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