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Alabama at #1 Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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The Rematch, this time in the Jungle

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

Tuesday February 1st, 2022

Alabama Crimson Tide at Auburn Tigers

Auburn Arena

Time: 8:00PM CT

Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network

It’s rivalry week once again for Auburn as the Tigers will play both Alabama and Georgia in their second week as the #1 team in the country. First up, a rematch of a great game in Tuscaloosa.

3 weeks ago tonight in Coleman Coliseum, Auburn knocked off Alabama 81-77 in a back and forth affair that went down to the wire. Allen Flanigan’s 4 free throws in the final minute provided the difference and the Tigers were able to hang on after blowing a 14 point lead with 8 minutes left. Auburn’s saving grace in that game was they never let Alabama take the lead. While Alabama was able to tie the game, they were never ever able to get over that hump of overtaking the Tigers.

Tonight is the rematch in Auburn Arena, a highly anticipated showdown after the thrilling first matchup. But there’s arguably even more at stake in tonight’s contest than 3 weeks ago. Now, Auburn sits at #1 in the country, in the midst of a 17 game winning streak. Alabama comes in after knocking off Baylor and they surely remember how Auburn celebrated the win in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama proved they can beat anyone in the country once again on Saturday, knocking off defending National Champion Baylor in Tuscaloosa. It was Alabama’s 3rd win over a team that was in last year’s Final Four with earlier wins over Gonzaga and Houston and now Baylor. But Alabama is also capable of losing to anybody (see last Tuesday night in Athens). Alabama has played up and down to the level of their competition all season long and knowing what’s at stake tonight, I expect one of their better efforts this season.

All of that to say, Auburn is 20-1, #1 in the country, and you can argue they still haven’t played their best basketball yet. After their worst shooting game of the season at Missouri, Auburn bounced back with a solid performance over a good Oklahoma team 86-68 on Saturday. Jabari Smith led the way with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Just as he did in Tuscaloosa, Jabari will need to have another big game for Auburn tonight. Jabari had a season-high 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks 3 weeks ago.

Walker Kessler could never get going 3 weeks ago in Tuscaloosa dealing with foul trouble early and often, and fouled out playing just 12 minutes. In the 5 games since, Kessler is averaging 17.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 4.2 BPG. He’s coming off a 21 point and 9 rebound performance Saturday. Alabama did a really good job of taking Kessler out of that game and Kessler has done well to stay out of foul trouble since that game. Alabama’s Juwan Gary also dealt with foul trouble in that game so it’ll be interesting to see how this game is called in the paint.

Wendell Green had a monster second half at Coleman finishing with 19 points in that one. He knocked knees in the second half against Missouri and then had just 2 points against the Sooners. We’ll see if tonight is a bounce back game for him as the Tigers need his scoring.

Auburn did a good job in the first matchup containing Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly who were a combined 8-33 from the field and 4-18 from 3. They’ll look to do the same tonight as the Tide averages 29.3 3 point attempts per game.

Prediction

This game could go a bunch of ways if we’re being honest. Looking at Auburn’s remaining home schedule, this looks to be toughest game for Auburn going down the stretch. Alabama will be extremely motivated to win this one and give Auburn a little bit of payback. I think this will be a great basketball game in an outstanding environment and down the stretch, I think Jabari Smith is the difference in the game and he’ll make a big shot or two to propel Auburn to the victory.

Auburn 84 Alabama 79