Frustration. Inconsistency. Trying to do too much. Alabama basketball trailed 16-0 in the first four minutes of its in-state rivalry game against Auburn Wednesday night.
The Crimson Tide didn’t quit, though; every time the Tigers pulled away, Nate Oats’ team showed its blue-collar basketball. Playing fast, playing physical and shooting a lot of three-point balls.
But despite it’s scoring in spurts and suffering prolonged scoring droughts, junior guard John Petty Jr. made a three-point shot to tie the game at 81 with 14.9 seconds left. The iron bowl was heading to overtime, Alabama’s second overtime game in a row and Auburn’s third-straight and fourth in five games.
But, the Crimson Tide started slow and the Tigers scored six straight. Alabama came close, but couldn’t overcome the deficit, losing 95-91.
“It was a tough game. Give Auburn credit,” Oats said in a press release. “They came out ready to play. We got down by 16 at the first media timeout. We can’t do that in an environment like this.”
In a game Alabama never led, the Crimson Tide was outrebounded 60-44, including 20 offensive rebounds. The Tigers had 24 second-chance points.
Junior forward Herbert Jones, missing the last three games with a broken wrist, despite the stat sheet was the most significant difference in the game. He played only seven minutes, but while on the floor, Alabama outscored Auburn by 13 points. Jones contested the last shot by Auburn, which, if made, would have ended the game in regulation.
Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. became just the second player in program history and the first since Roy Rogers in 1996, to record a triple-double. Lewis Jr. finished with 10 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
“Some of the positives for us obviously are Kira with the triple-double was huge,” Oats said. “I couldn’t afford to take him out of the game. He’s playing all 40 minutes, which is hard, but we had to do it. It speaks to the way he controlled the game. I thought he was unbelievable.”
In a game which the Crimson Tide needed to shoot the three-point ball and play fast, they did it. Alabama attempted an SEC-record 59 three-pointers and made an SEC-record 22.
Freshman guard Jaden Shackelford made seven shots beyond the arc while Petty Jr. made six.
Beating Auburn would have done wonders for the Crimson Tide’s resume. Now playing LSU at home on Saturday adds to its pressure. In essentially a must-win, the opportunities are there; but the Crimson Tide needs to capitalize.
Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.