Levi Randolph leads Alabama past Auburn 73-57

AP Sports WriterMarch 1, 2014 

Auburn Alabama Basketball

BUTCH DILL/Associated PressAuburn's Chris Denson goes from 'least-prepared playter' to second in SEC in points per game.


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Levi Randolph looked like a different player from the last Auburn game. Ditto for Alabama as a team.

Randolph scored 24 points and the Crimson Tide rolled to a 73-57 victory over Auburn on Saturday in a matchup of struggling rivals who were tied for 11th in the Southeastern Conference.

Trevor Releford added 16 points for the Crimson Tide (12-17, 6-10 SEC), which has won seven of the last nine meetings with the Tigers (13-14, 5-11) and five in a row at Coleman Coliseum.

"Levi came out there with great confidence," Releford said. "He was really taking what the defense was giving him. Credit Levi for stepping up and hitting some big shots when we needed them. That kind of energy, we all kind of fed off of and tried to make plays right along with Levi."

The Tide built the lead as high as 21 points just a month after losing 74-55 at Auburn. Retin Obasohan had 13 points.

Randolph made 4 of 6 3-pointers and had nine rebounds. He had been struggling before scoring a career-high 33 points against Missouri a week earlier.

He managed just one point against Auburn the first time around but supplied the biggest offensive spark to Alabama in the rematch, when the Tide shooters were hot and the Tigers were ice cold.

"I was just trying to be aggressive," Randolph said. "Coach always tells us to play with confidence and go out there and just let the game come to you. It starts on the defensive end. If we get stops and we can get out in transition and get some easy baskets, then the game will flow."

Releford had seven assists and three steals.

KT Harrell led Auburn with 21 points but Alabama held the league's top scorer, Chris Denson (Shaw), to a season-low six points.

Denson was 2-of-15 shooting after scoring a career-high 32 points in the first meeting. He's trying to become the first Auburn player since Wesley Person 20 years ago to lead the SEC in scoring.

"Our game plan was to stop him and everybody on the team did a great job of doing that," Releford said.

Harrell also struggled from the floor, going 7 of 19. Asauhn Dixon-Tatum had eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. The Tigers fell to 1-8 in road games.

"You're not going to win a lot of games shooting 27 percent on the road," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "There's a way you can: You don't let the other team shoot 49 percent. That's not a combination for a win. You've got to guard regardless of whether your offense is going or not."

Barbee was asked if he's worried about his job security.

"No, I'm worried about playing against Tennessee the next game," Barbee said. Then he walked out of the interview room without taking any more questions.

Alabama made 10 of 18 3-pointers (55.6 percent) and 24 of 49 field goals (49 percent). The Tide, which is 6-2 in league games at home, never let Denson and the Tigers get going offensively.

Auburn shot 19 of 69 from the floor, a season-low 27.5 percent. The Tigers also launched 27 3-pointers but hit just five (18.5 percent).

"You're not going to shoot the ball well every day as a team," Harrell said. "But it's really about defense. We didn't go out there with the mentality to really guard and lock up."

The Tide pushed a 36-21 halftime lead to 19 points on Randolph's two free throws 6 minutes into the second half. Auburn then got back-to-back steals and scored seven points in 27 seconds to cut it to 48-36 with 12:30 left on Harrell's 3-pointer.

The momentum was short-lived. Releford hit a 3-pointer to spark a 7-1 run and Alabama remained in control the rest of the way.

The Tide had come in with seven losses in its past nine games. Grant said energy and effort were the biggest differences from the game in Auburn.

"For Levi, for everybody, that was the focal point for us," he said. "It wasn't really anything more than that. We had to bring the energy and effort to match what they had."

AUBURN (13-14)

Dixon-Tatum 3-5 2-2 8, Harrell 7-19 5-5 21, Payne 4-9 1-2 9, Denson 2-15 1-2 6, Shamsid-Deen 1-11 1-2 4, Wade 1-6 0-0 3, Canada 0-1 4-4 4, Granger 1-3 0-2 2, Atewe 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 19-69 14-21 57.

ALABAMA (12-17)

Taylor 1-3 2-3 4, Hale 3-7 0-0 7, Releford 6-12 2-2 16, Randolph 6-11 8-12 24, Cooper 2-6 0-0 5, Key 0-0 2-2 2, Engstrom 1-1 0-0 2, Obasohan 5-9 1-4 13. Totals 24-49 15-23 73.

Halftime--Alabama 36-21. 3-Point Goals--Auburn 5-27 (Harrell 2-8, Denson 1-4, Wade 1-5, Shamsid-Deen 1-9, Payne 0-1), Alabama 10-18 (Randolph 4-6, Obasohan 2-3, Releford 2-4, Hale 1-1, Cooper 1-4). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Auburn 46 (Dixon-Tatum 11), Alabama 38 (Cooper, Randolph 9). Assists--Auburn 9 (Harrell 4), Alabama 13 (Releford 7). Total Fouls--Auburn 20, Alabama 20. A--13,499.

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