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#4 Auburn at Alabama Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn heads into enemy territory to take on the Crimson Tide.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Wednesday January 15th

Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide

Location: Coleman Coliseum - Tuscaloosa

Time: 8:00PM

Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network

Other than a slow start against Georgia, Auburn played one of their most complete games in their 82-60 win over the Dawgs last Saturday. Offensively, Auburn got contributions from several players, including big games off the bench for Allen Flanigan, Anfernee McLemore and Jamal Johnson. Defensively, they kept Anthony Edwards in check and never made let him get comfortable.

Now Auburn goes on the road twice this week, once to their in-state rivals and the other game to a place that Auburn hasn’t won at this millennium in Gainesville. Safe to say, this is the toughest week the Tigers have faced so far and it would be quite a feat for Auburn to go 2-0 this week. But in order to go 2-0, you got to go 1-0 first.

Get to Know Alabama

There was some pretty big expectations for the first year of the Nate Oats era. But the Tide was hit hard preseason with injuries in their frontcourt and also were unable to get Jahvon Quinerly, a transfer from Villanova, eligible. A lot of fun has been poked at this Alabama team due to their 8-7 record coming into tonight’s game. Yes, they lost their opener to Penn but since November 5th, this team has really improved.

Offensively, they are averaging 83.2 PPG this season and have done what Auburn fans are accustomed to seeing their team do over the last couple of years, shoot the 3 ball at will. While their offense is scoring much more than last year (72 PPG in 2018-2019), they are also giving up 78.7 PPG. As a team, Alabama is shooting 160-440 from 3 this year (36.4%). Meanwhile, Auburn is 124-386 (32.1%).

Junior Guard John Petty Jr. (#23) - 16.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 49.5% 3-point shooter

A big reason for Alabama’s jump in the 3-point department: John Petty who is having a really good year for the Tide. After a slow start in his first 3 games, Petty has shot the 3 ball at an impressive rate this year coming in just under 50% for the season (53-107). Petty had 10 3s and scored 39 points against Samford and has made at least 3 3-pointers in 10 of his team’s 13 games. Petty was also known in the past as a guy who played much better at home but struggled on the road but he has seemingly put good performances together away from Coleman Coliseum.

Sophomore Guard Kira Lewis Jr. (#2) - 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG

As a freshmen, Lewis led the Tide in scoring at 13.5 PPG. He has increased his scoring average this year and gotten help from his teammates. His assist-to-turnover ratio is only 1.28. Compare that to Auburn’s Point Guard, J’Von McCormick whose assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.48. He’s a 32.4% 3-point shooter as well.

Freshman Guard Jaden Shackelford (#5) - 12.1 PPG

Shackelford has provided Alabama with great numbers mostly off the bench. While he has started 3 games this year, the California native has given the Tide a 3-point shooter off the bench. He’s attempted the 2nd most 3s behind Petty and is a 33% 3-point shooter. Shackelford had 28 points and 8 rebounds, both career and season highs against Richmond but is coming off a game against Kentucky where he scored a season-low 2 points.

Meanwhile in the paint for Alabama, the Tide features:

Junior Forward Herb Jones (#1) - 9.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG

Herb had a season high 18 points against Kentucky and has scored in double figures 4 of his last 5 games after posting just 1 double figure scoring game in his first 10 games this year.

Junior Forward Alex Reese (#3) - 8.9 PPG

Reese is a 33.8% 3-point shooter. Of all of Alabama’s big guys, he’s the biggest threat on the perimeter.

Freshman Forward Javian Davis (#0) - 7.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG

Davis got off to a good start but has struggled lately. He scored his first 2 SEC buckets on Saturday.

And finally,

Grad Transfer Guard James “Beetle” Bolden (#11) - 8.8 PPG

Bolden, a transfer from West Virginia, has given Alabama another guy who can come in off the bench and knock down 3s while also playing some point guard. He is 2nd on the team shooting 36.2% from 3.

What to Expect from Auburn

Tonight could be a block party for Auburn. Auburn averages 6 blocked shots a game led by Wiley and McLemore. Auburn has the advantage in the paint and with this being both guys last trip to Tuscaloosa as players, they want to go finish their careers at Coleman the same way last year’s seniors did.

Isaac Okoro has looked better on the offensive glass and I think this could be another big night for the freshman. He had just 7 points against Georgia but dealt with foul trouble throughout the contest. He also had 0 rebounds and 0 free throw attempts against the Bulldogs. Look for Okoro to be aggressive early and often in this one.

Prediction

This is a game I’ve gone back and forth on for weeks. Yes, Bama is 8-7 but they’ve gotten much better the last 2 months and after Auburn swept them last season, you know Alabama wants nothing more than to end Auburn’s perfect run. Alabama made a season low 4 3s against Kentucky, in a game they kept close through the duration of it in Lexington. It snapped a 10 game streak of the team making at least 9 3-pointers in a game. Guarding the 3 for Auburn will be the biggest key in determining who wins tonight. There also appears to be a large Auburn contingent planning on making the trip over this evening. Hopefully Auburn can make Coleman Coliseum feel like home tonight. I think Alabama will give Auburn all they can handle and while I won’t be surprised at all if tonight is the night, I’ll take Auburn in a close game.

Auburn 78 Alabama 73