Alabama Basketball had to come from behind to avoid an upset on the road at Auburn. Here are some takeaways from the impressive victory.
Rivalry games can be trap games, especially on the road. Alabama Basketball came into the game against Auburn as an easy favorite on paper but the historic rivalry mixed with Auburn’s sporadic play this season made this a game that could’ve easily produced the Tide’s first SEC loss of the season. College gameday was in the house, the crowd was alive and the building was on fire. The Tigers even held on to a lead for most of the game. But it didn’t matter,
In the end, Alabama pulled away to win and before a Wendell Green garbage time layup, led by ten in the final ten seconds. It’s one of the more impressive victories this team has had all year and was a real “gut check” win. This game was a perfect example of why this team is so dangerous and is one of the three best teams in college basketball. The win is one of the biggest headlines in the SEC, but here are the biggest takeaways I had from the game.
Frontcourt Defensive Domination
Brandon Miller, Mark Sears and the guard play gets a ton of recognition for this team, and rightfully so. But the one advantage I felt the Tiers might have is in the frontcourt, and Charles Bediako and Noah Clowney took Auburn center Johni Broome entirely out of the game.
Broome has been phenomenal for Auburn this season and in games where their backcourt has struggled, he bailed them out. But against Alabama, nothing was easy. He made only three of his 11 two-point attempts and scored only eight points, his lowest point total since their January 18th win over LSU.
This isn’t the first time Alabama has taken away a team’s frontcourt strength as they held Oscar Tshiebwe to one of his worst performances in a Kentucky uniform earlier last month. Bediako and Clowney have been the perfect defensive frontcourt in a league where great offensive bigs are abundant.
Auburn’s guards played well enough to win them the game. If you told me that Green scores 24 and K.D. Johnson comes off the bench to score 12 and both combine for only two turnovers, I would’ve guessed that the Tigers pulled off the upset. But the defensive job they did on Broome as well as the paint defense and rim protection late in the game provided the Tide with the stops they needed to pull this off.
Rylan Griffen provides spark off the bench
The Tide don’t win this game without the performance of Griffen off the bench. He led the team in scoring with 16, which included making three of his five three-point attempts in a game where the normally marvelous three-point shooting Alabama team made only 28% of their attempts.
Miller and Sears often take up most of the scoring on this team but when other players like Griffen can step in and take over, they become so much tougher to guard. His scoring provided the spark needed to put the Tide in front for good.
My favorite play from Griffen, however, was his block on Green late in the game. Green made his fourth three of the game and put Auburn back in front 62-61 with a little over six minutes remaining. Griffen then made two free throws on the other end to give Alabama the lead right back.
On the next play, Green shook Griffen off a screen and seemingly had himself another wide-open look for three. A made triple would’ve blown the roof off that arena and given Auburn yet another lead. But Griffen hustled, recovered and got to Green in time for a blocked shot that then led to another Griffen three-pointer. Boom. The Tide now led 66-62 and never trailed after that.
Griffen came off the bench to provide the scoring and defense during the most pivotal stretch of the game.
Alabama wins a tight, competitive game.
It may seem like I am stating the obvious here (something I am very well versed in) but this statement is significant for this specific Alabama squad.
They’re undefeated in league play and seemingly every game has been a blowout or hasn’t been competitive late in the game. With the exception of their second game against Mississippi State, every single win has been by more than double digits. They have some cartoonishly large margin of victories too. They beat Vanderbilt by 57, LSU by 40, Kentucky by 26, and others by 20 plus.
In this game, they had to go on the road, against their biggest rival and talented basketball team and scrape out a win in a hostile environment. Even some of the best, national championship-winning teams in the past have lost that very same type of game. But when the game got tight, Nate Oats’ team showed why they are one of the very few complete teams in the sport.
Auburn did a lot right in this game. Green played one of his best games, Johnson played well off the bench, and they rebounded the ball well offensively but it didn’t matter. Alabama closed the game and got stops at the end to pull away. The win puts the Tide one game closer to the SEC regular season title as they’re now two and a half games ahead of Texas A&M with six games remaining.