Alabama basketball bursts bubble in Auburn Arena

The underdog Alabama basketball team was totally outmatched against the Auburn Tigers, losing 84-63 inside Auburn Arena Saturday night.

For Alabama basketball fans who had the good luck to not watch the game, the details to follow will be painful. Those who did see the game probably have no appetite for any review. The game was every bit as bad as the score indicates – maybe worse.

Auburn outplayed Alabama basketball in every facet of the game. It was easy to see Auburn had a better game plan and was better prepared to execute their plan. Some of us Alabama basketball fans who have followed Bruce Pearl since his years at Wisconsin-Milwaukee have a low opinion of his character. But the man can coach basketball and Avery Johnson had almost no worthwhile coaching response to Pearl’s plans on Saturday night.

Avery did try some zone defense to slow the onslaught of Tigers’ points. The changed worked for a few possessions but Auburn adjusted and the scoring bombardment continued. For those who make it to the bottom of this post, some stat details are available. The ‘Cliff Notes’ version is Alabama basketball committed 21 turnovers and a smaller Auburn lineup outscored the Tide 30-22 in the paint.

Those stats matter more than Auburn shooting 59 percent from outside the arc. The Tide defense could not cover on the perimeter, though not from lack of effort. Auburn’s spacing, quickness and good ball movement was the problem. And when not shooting threes, repeatedly, faster, quicker, Auburn players dribbled around Crimson Tide defenders, often from outside the arc, all the way to the basket.

Avery’s bizarre substitution patterns made the Tide’s perimeter defense worse but in fairness to Avery, Auburn is a bad matchup for the Tide. A bigger problem is without Donta Hall in the game, the Tide could not defend the basket. Hall played only 26 minutes. The Tigers also had success inside with Hall in the game, but the defense was worse without him.

With the Crimson Tide offense marred by turnovers, Donta Hall only got three shots in the entire game. John Petty’s 18 points off the bench and Kira Lewis Jr.’s 13 points provided most of the Tide firepower.  Without Petty fighting to get shots, the Tide would have suffered a thirty point loss.

What does the loss mean to NCAA chances

Alabama basketball was a projected 11-seed before the game and a bubble team. Losing by 21, even to a good Auburn team probably pushes the Tide into the ‘first four out’ category. Oddsmakers had Auburn as a 9.5 point favorite. That number might have anticipated a return to the Tigers lineup of Austin Wiley. Pearl deemed Wiley was not ready to return and the Tigers clearly did not need him.

The final stats

  • Field Goal Percentage: Auburn 52 percent – Alabama 45 percent
  • Free Throw Percentage: Auburn 79 percent – Alabama 72 percent
  • Rebounds: Auburn 31 – Alabama 29
  • Turnovers: Auburn 13 – Alabama 21
  • Points in the Paint: Auburn 30 – Alabama 22
  • Steals: Auburn 13 – Alabama 4
Next: For Alabama basketball, life on the bubble

Now at 13-8, the Crimson Tide has two games next week it should win. Georgia at home should be a victory. Historically, traveling to Nashville almost always means a Tide loss. This season, Alabama should beat Vanderbilt, even in the haunted Memorial Gym.


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