AP photo by Todd Van Emst|
Auburn’s Frank Tolbert had plenty of reasons to smile in Auburn on Tuesday night. The Tigers defeated No. 12 Alabama for the first time in seven tries.
AU celebrates ‘great win’
Tigers manhandle No. 12 Tide
By Josh Cooper
AUBURN — It wasn’t one for the thumb, but one for the index finger.
Auburn defeated No. 12 Alabama for the first time in eight games 81-57 in front of a capacity crowd of 10,500 at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
With 27.9 seconds left, in response to Alabama’s high-profile hiring of Nick Saban as head football coach, Auburn fans started chanting, “We want Saban.”
Despite the football overtones of the game — Auburn’s football team was honored at halftime when it received the ODK Iron Bowl Trophy for beating Alabama in the fall — Saban probably couldn’t have helped as Auburn outscored the Crimson Tide 46-21 in the second half.
“It was a great win, and a deserving win,” Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said.
“That’s as good as we
could have played in the second half.”
After owning a 36-35 halftime lead, Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said his team “lost its poise.”
“We’re not playing great basketball right now, and that’s a little bit disappointing,” Gottfried said. “We didn’t defend well, we missed some open shots and missed some around the basket. For us right now, we have to find some answers.”
Auburn’s last win in the series came Jan. 18, 2003, at home.
The Tigers (13-8, 3-3 SEC) started hitting shot after shot and then found themselves with a 48-41 lead five minutes into the second half.
With Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix — who finished with four points and seven rebounds — in foul trouble, Auburn exploited a soft Alabama interior with layups and high-flying dunks in transition.
Overall, the Tigers finished with 52 points in the lane compared to Alabama’s 34 and had three times as many fast break points than the Crimson Tide, 18-6.
“It was a big win for us and showed we could play anybody tonight,” said Korvotney Barber, who led Auburn with 18 points. “It’s a big rival game, and we had a packed crowd, so it was fun coming in to play those guys and beat them.”
The Crimson Tide (15-4, 2-3) made only 9 of 28 shots in the second half and hit only 2 of 11 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Auburn shot almost 68 percent.
“We can’t let a team at home get in a groove like that,” Alabama guard Ronald Steele said.
While the emphatic win continued a pleasantly surprising season for the Tigers, the loss brought several difficult issues to the forefront for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama has not won an SEC road game all season, has just one victory away from home this season, which came in a less-than-hostile environment at North Carolina State.
Despite having 19 points, Steele still looks hobbled by his bad ankle, and Alabama’s defense has allowed 90.5 points a game in the four road losses.
“Right now, we’re not playing nearly the way we can play,” Gottfried said. “My concern is with our team and with coaches we have to do a better job, I need to do a better job. We have some players who need to be better.”
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