The students camped out, College Gameday was back in Neville Arena and Wendell Green, Jr. scored a season-high 24 points, but Auburn could not stop the rolling of the Tide as Alabama secured another SEC win, 77-69.
“We put ourselves in position again to win the game. We didn’t make shots at times,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “The last six minutes or so, our defense in the second half wasn’t as good as it was in the first half.”
For the third straight game, Auburn held a lead at several points throughout the contest but ultimately faltered down the stretch. The Tigers hit just one of their last 10 while the Crimson Tide went 8-for-11, retook the lead, and never gave it back.
Brandon Miller has been arguably the best freshman in all of college basketball, but the Tigers held him to 13 points on Saturday, including 0-of-7 from three. While Miller struggled, fellow freshman Jaden Bradley, Mark Sears and Rylan Griffen stepped up to the plate and delivered. Forty-three of the Tide’s 77 points came from that trio on a combined 15-of-20 shooting from the floor. The three guards were the difference for Alabama as the march toward an SEC Championship continued.
“We chose to not come off shooters and make them beat us from two, and they did,” Pearl said. “They got downhill. We did a pretty good job on Brandon, a good job guarding him from 3 but they’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Alabama shot just 28% from three, well below the Tide’s season average, but they made up for it inside the arc, going 23-of-28 and scoring at will when attacking the basket.
Wendell Green, Jr. did his best to weather the storm on his end, leading both teams with 24 points, as well as adding two assists and two steals. He was a solid 4-of-9 from 3-point range but struggled against the large Alabama guards when attacking the basket, hitting just seven of his 19 total shots.
Green was joined by Jaylin Williams, at least in the first half. The senior forward led both teams with 14 first-half points and was efficient from the floor. However, foul trouble and second half adjustments from Alabama held Williams to just two second half points.
“Early, they were sagging off a little bit, giving me a little too much space on the catch-and-stick,” Williams said. “We’ve got to finish through contact.”
Auburn was sharp from the free throw line, getting there early and often with 26 total attempts at the charity stripe, converting 22. That, along with Green’s performance, was the lone bright spot for Auburn offensively.
The Tigers could not buy a bucket down the stretch, shooting 32% from the field overall. From three-point range, the Tigers hit 29%, but without the shooting of Green, the rest of the team was just 20% from three. Green and Williams were two of three Tigers in double figures, as well as the only players to make a shot from beyond the arc.
“We need to play better. We need to make plays. We need more guys to step up. I’ve got to do a better job,” Pearl said. “We need all that.”
It will be a quick turnaround for the Tigers, who will be back home in Neville Arena on Tuesday, February 14, to take on Missouri (18-6, 6-5 SEC). The battle of the Tigers will tip-off at 6 p.m. CST. on ESPN2.
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