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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tip-in with .3 seconds left crushes Auburn's upset bid in 51-49 loss at Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Auburn's three leading rebounders sat on the bench, helpless to do anything, having fouled out far earlier in a slow-paced, foul-plagued game at Coleman Coliseum.

They could only watch as Alabama's JaMychal Green followed up a Tony Mitchell miss with a tip-in with .3 seconds on the clock, helping the Crimson Tide avoid an NCAA tournament résumé-crushing loss in a 51-49 win Wednesday night.

"It's very tough to sit on the sideline and not be able to contribute," Auburn guard Earnest Ross said of his vantage point for the final four minutes. "I wish we could have pulled it out."

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Allen Payne's desperation, fullcourt heave hit the backboard and rim for the Tigers (9-18, 2-11 SEC) but bounced out, although it was later confirmed that the shot would not have counted.

It only added more sting to a game that, had Auburn won, would have been the most gratifying moment of Tony Barbee's long first season on the Plains.

"This loss is on me because I did an awful job of teaching these guys how to win," Barbee said. "Because that's a game even in this environment that as bad as we played, we've got to figure out a way to win. And we lost it, so that's on me."

Alabama (19-8, 11-2 SEC) shook off a 26 percent shooting night — its worst of the season — to avoid a loss that would have devastated its already borderline NCAA tournament credentials.

Despite having already clinched the SEC West, the Crimson Tide entered Wednesday with an RPI of 78. The Tigers, who sit at 270, could have dragged that down considerably.

"I'm still trying to find out how we did it," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said, looking at his team's woeful offensive numbers. ""When you look at the numbers, it equates to a loss. ...

"I told them that this was a near-death experience. You've got to understand how close you came to losing some opportunities that are in front of us."

Auburn started hot, using a 17-2 run to lead by as many as 15 in the first half. The Tigers led for 19:15 in the first half in a building where that usually doesn't happen. Crimson Tide opponents had led for only 48:01 of 580 minutes in the Coleman Coliseum this season.

Alabama, meanwhile, couldn't have struggled more. The Tide went 5-for-22 from the floor (22 percent) but managed to put together a 9-0 run just before the break to go into halftime trailing 31-25.

The Tigers kept it going in the second half, however, taking a 41-29 lead with 11:52 on a 3-pointer in the corner by Ross, who was the team's only double-figure scorer with 10.

But fouls and the usual offensive shortcomings proved to be Auburn's Achilles' heel. The Tigers would score only two points in the next nine minutes.

Meanwhile, the fouls piled up. Auburn had 29 in the game, watching center Rob Chubb foul out with 9:19 left, a questionable call that prompted Barbee to earn his third technical in as many games. Ross picked up his fifth foul minutes later followed by Gabriel and Adrian Forbes, three-fifths of the Tigers' starting lineup and the majority of the team's offense.

"I told my guys that there's a big difference between playing hard and fouling," Barbee said. "They were all fouls and we put them to the foul line way too much when they were struggling to score."

Alabama made 27 of 40 free throws while Auburn was only 10-for-19, helping the Tide erase the 12-point deficit down the stretch.

The Crimson Tide took a 49-47 lead with 28.4 seconds left after Green and Trevor Releford both split a pair of free throws. Auburn's Tony Neysmith answered with a shot off the glass that tied things at 49 with 13 seconds to play.

That set up the final play, with Green, who finished with a game-high 17, darting to the hoop to clean up Mitchell's miss with little resistance.

"Give them credit," Barbee said. "They made the plays down the stretch and we didn't."

Auburn returns to action Saturday at home against Arkansas starting at 1:47 p.m. ET.


Anonymous said...

There were still plenty of terrible calls. I've never been more mad to lose a game before. Losing isn't bad, honestly. But losing because of that bad of officiating is just rediculous. How is there no foul when Chubb was thrown down? Unbelievable.

Clint Richardson said...

Sorry, that was my post above. Didn't mean to post it anonymous.

realist26 said...

The absolute worst called game i've ever seen...SEC ref's protecting a mediocre team that does not belong in the Tournament. Barbee is being wayyy to generous by saying playing hard and fouling is different. Stand up coach and call it like you know it was...40 freethrows to 19...please.

Justin said...

There are no words to describe the 29-18 foul count. It is beyond atrocious, it is beyond inexcusable, and it is beyond blatantly obvious.

I hope this conference feels proud of itself. Maybe the NCAA does need to expand the tournament to 96 teams. Maybe then conferences won't be selling out the competition that it breathes on for some stupid tournament berth and its cash.

Hunter-Gatherer said...

Arkansas game is at 12:47 CT? What a weird time to start a game.

MikeP said...

This one is just like the 2009 Iron Bowl game. Even though Auburn didn't win in 2009, you could tell that as soon as Coach Chizik got a few more players to work with he'd be beating Saban like a drum.

Give Barbee even two more players and he'll own UAT and Grant. Nobody that saw last night's game can doubt that.

Anonymous said...

The officiating was atrocious.

How the heck do you get an offensive foul when you don't touch anyone on the way to the hoop?