AUBURN — The Alabama basketball team weathered one first-half run Saturday night. The second one, however, proved lethal.
Auburn went on two extended runs in the first half, built a 20-point halftime lead and coasted to an 84-63 win at Auburn Arena. The 21-point margin of defeat made it Alabama’s most one-sided loss since last season’s 81-58 loss to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.
“They were just a better team tonight,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth but that’s it. They were better tonight. That doesn’t mean we can’t be better the next time.”
Alabama took a 7-1 lead from the tip, but Auburn responded with a 24-4 run. The Crimson Tide made a run of their own to cut the lead to 29-26 with 6:35 remaining in the half.
Auburn exploded at that point, closing the half on a 19-2 run to take a 48-28 halftime lead. Alabama cut that lead to 11 points, 54-43, with 13 minutes to play but promptly gave up a four-point play to Jared Harper, pushing the lead back to 15 points and scuttling any faint Alabama hopes.
The Crimson Tide had a season-high 21 turnovers, leading to 30 Tiger points.
“With the way they can run and their 3-point shooting, you’re hurting any chance you have (with 21 turnovers),” Johnson said. “I thought we got a little rattled. I thought with our experience we would handle it better. But that’s on me.
“They feed off their crowd. They do a good job of playing in this building. We tried to slow them down. We used some timeouts there. Sometimes it’s a little challenging in the first half but sometimes when they go on a run, you think you’ve got something good and you’ll come down and score and when you don’t, it just kind of catapults into a big run for them.”
Momentum helped, but Auburn also shot the ball at a sizzling pace from 3-point range, making 13 of 22 attempts. Bryce Brown made five of his seven 3-point attempts and led all scorers with 23 points. Harper added 19 for the Tigers 15-6, 4-4 SEC).
John Petty came off the bench to score 18 points, leading Alabama (13-8, 4-4).
“I just tried to be aggressive,” Petty said. “I just tried to bring some momentum and some energy to my team. We went on a run for a minute, then we had a minor defensive lapse. Their crowd really gets behind them when that happens.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.