GAME NOTES: A fierce rivalry will be renewed on Tuesday night, as the Alabama Crimson Tide play host to the Auburn Tigers in an SEC showdown at Coleman Coliseum.
Auburn claimed a defensive struggle at home in the Feb. 6 matchup between these two teams, 49-37, to snap a five-game losing streak to Alabama. The Tide still holds an 89-57 advantage in the all-time series.
Auburn has been in a downward spiral since mid-January, with that win over Alabama three weeks ago being its only victory in the last 12 games. The Tigers extended their losing streak to five games on Saturday as they suffered an 88-55 defeat at Ole Miss, and they are just 9-18 overall and a lowly 3-11 in conference.
Alabama had been one of the SEC's hottest teams heading into Saturday's bout with LSU, having won four straight games, but after battling tough for three overtimes, it ultimately dropped the marathon matchup, 97-94. The setback for the Tide dropped it to 18-9 overall and into a tie for second place in the league with Kentucky at 10-4.
The Tigers never stood a chance against the red-hot Rebels over the weekend, as they were outshot from the field in the 33-point defeat, 54 percent to 39.3 percent, and outscored from the foul line, 21-8. Despite the lackluster shooting effort by most of his teammates, Shaquille Johnson came through with a career-high 18 points on 7-of-11 accuracy from the floor. Auburn ranks ninth in the SEC in scoring with 65.5 ppg, but it has failed to top 56 points in any of its last three games. It also surrenders the second-most points per game (68.6). Frankie Sullivan is the top scoring threat with 14.7 ppg, but he shoots only 37.6 percent from the field and his scoring average has plummeted to just 8.3 ppg over the last six games. Chris Denson is a solid option coming off the bench with 11.3 ppg, while Rob Chubb brings stability to the frontcourt with 8.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.0 bpg.
Alabama appeared to have its latest game well in hand, up by 10 with under seven minutes remaining in the extra session, but LSU went on a 15-5 run to force overtime, and after 15 minutes of extra playing time the Tide eventually fell on the wrong side of the final score. Trevor Releford was fantastic in the losing effort, shooting a lofty 14-of-18 from the field for a career-high 36 points, and his three steals made him the school's all-time leader with 178 thefts for his career. Rodney Cooper finished with 18 points and nine rebounds but he did so only just 7-of-22 shooting, while Trevor Lacey (11 points) and Nick Jacobs (10 points) were also impressive. The extra playing time allowed the Tide to score well above their usual 63.6 ppg, but they were also let down by a poor defensive performance, as they are typically outstanding in allowing just 58.7 ppg. Releford nets 15.4 ppg and is an efficient shooting guard (.488). Lacey brings 11.9 ppg to the table, and Cooper contributes 11.4 ppg.
Alabama should be feeling the fatigue of its latest game, but it will be rejuvenated returning to Tuscaloosa with the end of the regular season on the horizon. Auburn had the Tide's number the last time out, but don't expect the same this time around.
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