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Alabama Ends Auburn’s Winning Streak

By on January 18th, 2018 in Basketball, News 7 Comments »

Auburn guard Jared Harper (1) makes a basket against Alabama forward Galin Smith (30) on January 17, 2018. (photo: Vasha Hunt /

It was a clunker of a game by the Auburn Tigers, no doubt about it. 

Auburn traveled to Tuscaloosa to take on an Alabama team that has largely underachieved this year under Avery Johnson but was still viewed by most basketball aficionados as a bubble team for the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, the Tigers were regarded as one of the hottest teams in the nation,

With the nation’s longest winning streak and sitting atop the SEC, Auburn was in a position it hasn’t known maybe ever. If this were a blue-blood team, fans wouldn’t have been very worried about Auburn laying an egg against its rival. Winning streaks, sitting atop the standings, and avoiding letdown games against lesser opponents on the road isn’t what those teams do. 

But Auburn hadn’t been there before, and youth and inexperience finally caught up to Bruce Pearl’s squad with the Tigers dropping a 76–71 game.

It just had to be against Alabama, didn’t it?

Auburn basketball fans could feel it coming, but as the two teams tipped off, the SEC Network broke news that Colin Sexton, Alabama’s best player and the SEC’s top scorer, wouldn’t be playing. For a moment, it seemed as if a loss was inevitable, it wouldn’t be in Coleman Coliseum. Even as the two teams traded turnovers in the first few minutes of the game, one thing was becoming abundantly clear: with Sexton out, Auburn hadn’t game planned for John Petty. 

Who? Exactly. 

Petty dropped 27 points on the Tigers, including 8 of 13 from down town. It wasn’t just the volume of threes that Petty hit, but how and when. Case in point was an off-balance NBA-range three that Petty threw up. The only way it could have been any more comical was if it had been with a blindfold and a hand tied behind his back. But like almost every shot he took, it still found the bottom of the basket. Though Auburn had a slim three-point lead on a buzzer beater in the first half, the Tigers fought from eight points behind virtually the entire half. Every time Auburn cut the lead, typically to six points, Petty would drop another one and push the lead right back to eight, which seemed to be the Tides’s magic number. 

Auburn never went on the game-defining run that ate up opponent’s leads or pushed the margin of victory to the 14-point average victory margin the Tigers have enjoyed. 

Still, Auburn had chances in the waning moments of an ugly outing to win the game, and they weren’t with the long ball or turnovers. It was at the charity stripe where Auburn has been so good this year. Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke, and Mustapha Heron all took turns in the double bonus but were unable to convert. Harper, an 80-plus percent shooter from the line, missed both of his shots in what was basically a back-breaker moment. 

Though the 63-percent free-throw number isn’t typical for Auburn, it also wasn’t the reason Auburn lost. Auburn never looked right from the beginning and didn’t get better as the game went on. Big men Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer have had some tough games the last few weeks, and while Spencer turned his game back up last night, McLemore looked more than a little off. The typically high-energy man was anything but as he scored just six points, pulled down two rebounds and couldn’t add a single block—his mainstay. Spencer did what he could, also kicking in six points and adding a pair of blocks. 

The biggest head-scratcher was the play of Mustapha Heron. After scoring early on a pair of alley oops, Heron completely disappeared for the entire first half and most of the second. He resurfaced late in the game as he tried to take over the game. The problem was, it looked more like selfishness as he cut off passes meant for his point guard, Jared Harper, and drove the lane just to turn the ball over. Heron led all Tigers with four turnovers while scoring just five points, an abysmal game for him. Bryce Brown led the Tigers with 12 points and was invisible in the second half as Alabama did a fine job pushing him to the perimeter and forcing him to take really tough shots. Although he did hit 4–8, he took far too few shots in the second half. 

In the end, it was a forgettable game that went back to the previous years under Pearl and even into the late Barbee era. There was no excuse for the Tigers to drop this game against Alabama, especially with Sexton out.  

With Florida earning a win and Auburn dropping this game, the Tigers enjoyed a short week atop the SEC as they lost their first conference game and fell to second place behind the Gators. They get their second biggest rival, UGA, at home this Saturday at 5:00 PM on the SEC Network. 


  1. WarEagleinKC says:

    Pearl is now 3-4 against uat and that shouldn’t be acceptable. Sure, he’s finally having some success this year (we’ll see how long it lasts) but I remember thinking one thing when we hired him…. No visions of a NC or even a Final Four banner, I was thinking we would finally be able to dominate that dump of a bball program in ttown. But it hasn’t happened. I told myself that I was not going to over react to a loss, but when I saw Sexton was out, I felt there would be no excuse to not come away with a W. Why does uat dominate Auburn in bball? I feel like we have to go all the way back to Bill Lynn to find a coach who had a winning record against them.

    We’re still 16-2, which is a great start, but last night was hard to swallow. Maybe we’ll rebound nicely this Saturday, before a near sure loss to mizzou next week.

  2. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    There was no excuse for last night except a lack of preparation.

    Bama had two really good players on the bench and a third hobbled. Still couldn’t get it done.

  3. ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

    I think we all knew that the streak would come to an end but, for me at least, I was hoping it would not be against bama but against a much better team.
    Auburn looked completely out of the game from the onset.

  4. sparkey sparkey says:

    It is funny to me how negative you guys are about basketball when he have had so little success in that sport, yet you are positive about football with Gus when Auburn has been so historically successful in that sport. How is it that many of you on here are tougher than Pearl and you are on Gus?? How exactly do you care to explain that double standard?

    Next, I find it funny how you have not written anything about Auburn beating Georgia by 14 points. Auburn had one of the best second halves of any Auburn team in basketball I have ever seen. Yet, Gus gets a pass from you guys. Pearl, on the other hand, is bashed for losing to Bama even though he will be 4-4 against them when they play us at home. What’s Gus’s record against UGA? Pearl is doing all of this without his two best players. How would Auburn have looked last year without Kerryon Johnson or Jarrett Stidham? Pearl has said we won’t win every game and that they have to get better. Gus, on the other hand, he likes where we’re at.

    This is a really good Auburn basketball team. How about those of you who support Gus get out there and support Pearl with the same fervor? I’ve never seen Gus buy pizza for the students during finals week. I certainly have seen Pearl do it. Bruce is trying to give Auburn a basketball program but people who play double standards for Gus against Bruce are not helping much in building that new tradition.

    • WarEagleinKC says:

      What are you talking about? My criticism of Pearl has nothing to do with Gus. I was very vocal about my disappointment in Gus after his 0-6 stretch against uga & uat.

      Like I said, when Pearl was hired I had no delusions about AU becoming a bball power. I did expect him to dominate a uat bball program that is nothing special, however. His 3-4 start against them is annoying. And the fact that we played so poorly against them while their best player was out made it that much worse. This year has been great, but we need to beat uat.

      Think about this… In my lifetime Auburn is 17-15 against bama in football. Not bad considering they are the dominate program in football. In basketball we are 24-45. Why? bama is nothing special in bball. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to dominate them with a coach of Pearl’s stature. I was expecting him to finally turn this rivalry around, and unfortunately, he has given me no reason to believe things will change.

      • sparkey sparkey says:

        I honestly was not referring to you at all.There have been others that have done what I mentioned but you were not who came to mind.

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