Auburn sweeps the Tide for the first time since 2009 with an 82-77 victory on the road in a sold out Plaid Palace. The win was Auburn's first win at Coleman in seven tries. Add that to the UAB win and Auburn finishes the 2016-17 season 3-0 against their instate rivals.
Auburn couldn't rebound. Auburn couldn't hit free throws. Auburn couldn't miss from the floor. Something had to give.
In the first half, Alabama had two types of possessions. They would either turn the ball over or keep grabbing offensive rebounds until one went in. With Austin Wiley in foul trouble, Auburn couldn't buy a rebound. Auburn finished the first half with ten total rebounds to Alabama's twenty-four.
Fortunately, the Tigers hit over 50% from the floor including 7 of 13 from downtown. Auburn rode this hot shooting to a 41-39 halftime lead.
Both teams went cold to start the first half. The teams combined to start 0-8 before an Austin Wiley dunk got things rolling with 17:37 to play. It took Alabama four minutes to score. The game remained tight for the first ten minutes, then it got out of hand.
Bryce Brown hit a three. TJ Lang followed it up with another. Then, Jared Harper hit a three and converted it to four with the and one. By the seven minute mark, Auburn built a fifteen point lead.
Of course, in this rivalry, it couldn't be that easy. Alabama made a tremendous run late to close the Auburn lead to 78-74 with a minute to play. Mustapha Heron broke the press and hit two free throws to put Auburn back up six. An Alabama three closed the lead to 80-77. Auburn got the ball to Mustapha Heron who closed out the scoring and extended the lead to five with 16 seconds to play. Alabama got some good looks at shots but none of them fell as Auburn won 82-77.
Five Tigers, Danjel, Mustapha, Harper, Johnson, and Brown, scored 10+ tonight in a whole-team effort. McLemore was the only Tiger with significant stats on the boards, pulling down eight rebounds.
Auburn's bench made big contributions tonight. Ronnie Johnson and Bryce Brown both scored in double digits. Ronnie Johnson was probably the player of the game. Ronnie hit some key 3s in the first half that built Auburn's confidence. He also managed to score and create off the drive. Johnson added three assists and two steals in the win.
Danjel Purifoy picked a good time to wake up. Danjel was arguably our best player in November and December but has gone cold in conference play as he's struggled to return from an injury. Purifoy found his range from outside, going 4-7 from outside the arc. He needs to do more in the paint, but it was good to see him shoot the ball well.
Auburn has work to do. Auburn can't get outrebounded by 19 on the road and expect this result to happen ever again. Auburn missed Horace Spencer (shoulder injury) when Austin left the game with foul trouble. Until we develop a consistent inside presence, we'll continue to be up and down as a team.
This win really helps Auburn's postseason resume. Auburn moves to 4-6 in conference and 15-8 overall with the win. Auburn has two winnable games coming up next against our Mississippi cousins, that could position Auburn to lock down an NIT bid.
But that's in the future. Tonight, we celebrate going 3-0 against the teams in the state that matter. War Eagle, everybody.