Auburn hadn’t won this season when trailing at halftime, and you’d think a 13-point intermission deficit would be enough to bury this team.
You’d be wrong. Auburn erased that hole with an 18-2 run early in the second half to beat Alabama 66-60 and sweep the season series with the Tide. With the win, the Tigers improve to 21-9 overall, and 10-7 in the SEC with a huge home game coming against Tennessee this Saturday.
Alabama came to play in front of the home crowd in the first half, building a 12-2 lead thanks to a 5-5 start from the floor. Auburn couldn’t cut the lead to anything less than five points, and the Tide led 34-23 at halftime. The Tigers faced a huge shooting discrepancy, hitting just 32% of their shots compared to Alabama’s 54% from the floor. There were no outright stars in the first half either, with the most productive player being Chuma Okeke and his 6 points and 6 rebounds.
In the second half, things didn’t look much better to start, as Auburn got called for three fouls in the first 29 seconds of the period. Five minutes into the half, Alabama led 43-31 after a John Petty jumper, but the Tigers strung together an 18-2 run that allowed the Tigers to take their first lead since the opening seconds of the game. During that stretch, Auburn got a huge sequence with a fastbreak layup by Jared Harper, which was followed up by a steal and corner three from Chuma Okeke. That cut the lead down to just four points, then a Malik Dunbar three tied the game at 45, and J’Von McCormick’s jumper put the Tigers up after that.
From that time on, the game was back-and-forth. Alabama answered and steadied themselves enough to tie the game up at 52 apiece, but Bryce Brown hit his second three of the game (2-9 from deep at that point), to reclaim the advantage for the Tigers. A Samir Doughty three put Auburn up 60-55, but Tevin Mack tied the game at 60 moments later with a corner three, leaving just 1:29 to play.
After a timeout, Jared Harper broke the tie on a quick drive and score past Herbert Jones, giving Auburn a 62-60 edge with 62 seconds left. Alabama missed its next shot, and Harper added an insurance bucket with another lightning-fast drive to the hoop to make it a two possession game and clinch the victory. Samir Doughty added a pair of free throws, and the final score stood at 66-60 in favor of the good guys.
Chuma Okeke’s resilient play stabilized Auburn while nothing else was working, and he finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Jared Harper had the last two nails in the coffin, and he added 16 points overall, but he only had a single assist on the night. Bryce Brown and Samir Doughty each added 7 points for Auburn, which shot 40% from the floor as a team, and only hit 7-25 threes.
Alabama was led by 13 points from Kira Lewis, 11 points from Herb Jones, and 10 points from Tevin Mack, but they crumbled down the stretch and allowed Auburn to erase a 13-point deficit to get the win.
Now, the SEC standings look this way — Auburn is still tied for 4th place with South Carolina since the Gamecocks beat Texas A&M tonight. For Auburn to get the 4th seed in next week’s SEC Tournament, it’s pretty simple. The Tigers must beat Tennessee, and the Gamecocks must lose to Georgia. Since Auburn lost in Columbia back in January, the Tigers need a full game edge on South Carolina. If Auburn falls to Tennessee, it depends on what happens with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Florida on Saturday. In that scenario, the Tigers could end up anywhere from the 5th seed to the 8th seed.