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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Late-game offensive drought does in Auburn in 68-58 loss to rival Alabama

AUBURN, Ala. — While Anthony Grant has Alabama’s program humming in Year 2, it’s becoming clear to Auburn’s Tony Barbee the long, arduous road ahead on the Plains.

The first-place Crimson Tide improved to 4-1 in SEC play for the first time in six years following a 68-58 win against the rival Tigers at the Auburn Arena on Saturday.

Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green both scored 15 points for Alabama (12-7), which avoided a letdown after upsetting No. 12 Kentucky earlier this week, winning in front of a sellout Auburn crowd enjoying a weekend-long football national championship celebration.

“In a lot of ways, it was a perfect storm for them with the emotion that was on campus today,” Grant said. “Just really, really proud of our guys for their perseverance, for the resilience that we showed.”

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For Auburn (7-12), which dropped to 0-5 in SEC play for the first time in five years, it was the same old story. The out-manned Tigers stayed close with a scrappy defensive effort but were doomed by a four-minute scoreless drought in crunch time.

The Tigers committed 21 turnovers and shot 38 percent from the field, failing to top 60 points for the fourth time in league play.

“It is what it is. We can’t score,” Barbee said. “It’s the theme of the year."

Nobody could pull away for most of the see-saw game, which featured 19 lead changes and nine ties. Neither team led by more than five before Auburn went ice cold at the five-minute mark of the second half.

“When we get a chance to make plays, make plays,” said Auburn guard Earnest Ross, who was one of the Tigers’ few highlights, finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Alabama took advantage, scoring eight straight points to open up a 59-49 lead with a minute left. The Crimson Tide made 24 free throws in the game, 14 of which came in the final two minutes.

Senario Hillman and Trevor Releford had 10 points apiece. Hillman added five assists for the first-place Tide, which has a week off before playing at LSU.

“They don’t hand out trophies in January,” Grant said. “So we’ve got to continue to understand who we are and continue to take it one day at a time and control the things we can control.”

Meanwhile, the losses continue to mount for Auburn, which figures to be underdogs in all 11 of its remaining SEC games.

“It’s frustrating because I hate losing no matter what it is,” Barbee said. “Ping pong, checkers. My wife still won’t play Monopoly with me over a game from 10 years ago. I’m being serious. I hate losing. I hate losing more than I like winning.”

Barbee praised the sellout crowd of 9,121, the Tigers’ first since opening night of the Auburn Arena, which predictably got its loudest when the football team was presented the ODK Foy Sportsmanship Trophy at halftime for winning the Iron Bowl.

But he knows it will take more crowds like that to get the struggling program on the right track.

“If we’re going to make this a top-20 program in the country, they come to every game, regardless of who you’re playing,” Barbee said. “Hopefully the fans understand and see that these kids are giving them everything they’ve got on the floor, playing unbelievably hard.

“And they need to be rewarded by a turnout like that every single game if this program is going to get to that level that they want and I want to get to.”

1 comment:

Aubiester said...

We can play good defense. Once Barbee gets some scorers in here we'll be winning a lot of basketball games. Going into the year didn't expect more than 10 wins from this bunch. Looking forward to next season where we will get at least 17 or 18 wins.