The Crimson Tide faced Auburn, its rival and the same team that hung a historic loss on Alabama 20 days earlier. This time, the Crimson Tide reversed the scenario, pounding a reeling Auburn squad with a 61-43 victory at home Tuesday night.
“We’ve talked about the importance game as we move forward, but when you play your in-state rival, it’s different,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
When the Crimson Tide lost to the Tigers 49-37 on Feb. 6, it fell apart after leading by 10 at halftime and posted its worst offensive performance ever in the series. This time, Alabama held Auburn to its lowest point total in the basketball Iron Bowl since 1949.
“We were very determined,” said Alabama guard Trevor Releford, who had a game-high 21 points. “We didn’t like the way it went down then. This was our home court.”
The Crimson Tide (19-9, 11-3 SEC) remained in second place in the SEC behind Florida, which Alabama will visit Saturday. Auburn (9-19, 3-12) has lost 12 of its last 13, with the only win in that stretch coming against Alabama.
The Tigers would need to win all of their remaining games, including taking the national championship, to avoid losing 20 games in a season for the third time in their history. The first two times happened in 1973 and 2011, which was Tony Barbee’s first season as Auburn’s head coach.
“We missed layups. we missed open shots,” Barbee said. “We probably missed 20 layups. How can you win a game if you miss 20 layups?”
Alabama won this one by surviving a lackluster first half offensively, then pouring it on after intermission.
The Crimson Tide had a stretch of 7:29 in the first half when it didn’t score, but Auburn managed to cut a 15-8 Alabama lead to only 15-13.
Alabama led by seven points at intermission, and fewer than seven minutes into the second half, the Tide already had pushed the advantage to 17. Auburn never challenged after that.
“I think we’re a better team than we were 20 days ago,” Grant said. “When we struggled offensively in the first half, we were solid defensively. In the second half, we remained solid defensively.”
Releford scored 13 of his points after halftime to lead the charge, and backup guard Retin Obasohan, who hasn’t even played in five games this year, got 21 minutes of rare playing time and scored eight of his 10 points after intermission. When starter Trevor Lacey picked up his third foul with 17 minutes to play, Grant inserted Obasohan, who posted a career high in points.
“He gave us energy, and he played well,” Grant said.
Meanwhile, Auburn hit only 30 percent of its shots. Rob Chubb managed 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while the rest of the team hit only 9 of 39. Leading scorer Frankie Sullivan managed only six points, hitting 1 of 9 from the field.
When asked about the team’s effort, Chubb said. “We definitely have had some guys who don’t give extra effort, go the extra mile. Nobody specific. It’s just team effort. ... Different guys at different times.”
Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.