Knocking on the Door!
Dunbar jams on the Tide!
(AP Photo Albert Cesare.)
War Eagle, everybody! The Auburn Tiger men’s basketball teams continues to amaze. Down to just 7 scholarship players last night against Alabama, the short-handed and under appreciated Tigers jumped out to an 8–0 lead early, then blew the game open in the second half, beating the Tide 90–71. Auburn is now just 1 win, or a Tennessee loss, away, from an SEC regular season championship! The quest continues this Saturday night in Gainesville against a slumping Florida team.
Very short-handed against Alabama thanks to injury and illness, Auburn needed to shoot well and stay out of foul trouble. Auburn shot the ball adequately, at best, but not spectacularly at 42.6 percent. The Tigers got in foul trouble early with Horace Spencer picking up his second foul with over 11 minutes left in the first half, and he ended up playing only 6 first-half minutes. Both key inside guys picked up fouls in the opening minutes of the second half, and one had to worry. However, Auburn true freshman Chuma Okeke stepped up and did not miss a beat in the middle of the paint.
Where this game was won was on turnovers. Alabama tried to pass the ball inside repeatedly to take advantage of a big size mismatch against the smaller Tigers. It proved to be a poor strategy as Auburn repeatedly took the ball away and ran off easy transition baskets. On the evening, Auburn was credited with 14 steals while Alabama had only 4. Also, Alabama was whistled for 21 fouls, but Auburn was tagged only 16 times. Auburn only shot 76.9 percent from the foul line, but Alabama was worse, hitting just 63.6 percent.
I have to salute Auburn leaders Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. In a 40-minute game, Harper played 37 minutes and Brown 35. One must remember that Brown could hardly walk or shoot the basketball in practice earlier this week. Harper is the best guard in the league, I think. He sets the offense masterfully and dishes with great precision and timing. Oh, and unlike most point guards, Harper can score in multiple ways if teams try to collapse in and leave him free.
Three regular season games remain for the Tigers, and the next pair are on the road. Auburn plays at Florida this Saturday night, then goes to Arkansas Tuesday evening. Auburn finishes the regular season at home on March 3rd against South Carolina. One win in any of these games will lock up an SEC title! What an amazing year for a team that was picked to win just 4 SEC games!