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February 26, 2013TUSCALOOSA | The Alabama Crimson Tide may not be one of the basketball teams that eventually plays for the national championship, but at least the Crimson Tide didn't let the state championship slip away.
Alabama avenged a defeat at Auburn 20 days earlier by stifling the Tigers 61-43 at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night, limiting AU to just 30 percent shooting. The 43 points was Auburn's lowest output against Alabama since 1949.
Trevor Releford, coming off a 36-point game at LSU last Saturday, led the Crimson Tide (19-9, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) with 21 points. Trevor Lacey added 12, while both Nick Jacobs and Retin Obasohan came off the bench to score 10 each.
"We have gone through our struggles but managed to win games," Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant said. "But I think we are a better team than we were 20 days ago."
That doesn't mean the win came easily.
The first half was so painful that Alabama endured one stretch of more than 12 minutes in which it scored just two points - and still managed to maintain the lead. Auburn shot just 21 percent in the half and trailed 23-16 at the break.
"I thought the improvement we have made from 20 days ago showed because we didn't let it rattle us," Grant said. "We were missing shots we are capable of making, we got a little tentative and it snowballed on us. But we wanted them to stay aggressive in the second half and not let offense affect our defense."
"The message at halftime was that we had to come out and not let down," Releford said. "We didn't like what went down in Auburn, and this is our homecourt, so we didn't want that to happen again."
The Crimson Tide then came out with 10 minutes of complete basketball to start the second half and put the Tigers away. UA outscored Auburn 27-11 over that stretch, thanks to Releford's offense and a strong showing from Obasohan.
"We wanted to go inside and we did," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "We got to the rim, but we probably missed 20 layups.
"I thought we played hard tonight, but we backed off a little on our defensive intensity in that stretch at the start of the second half and we couldn't afford to do that. When the shots don't fall, I think they get a little frustrated ,but the shots didn't fall in the first game and we kept our defensive intensity in that game."
Rob Chubb led Auburn (9-19, 3-12) with 13 points. The loss was AU's 12th in its last 13 games.
Alabama, meanwhile, maintains its hold on second place in the SEC with as it heads to a Saturday showdown with league-leading Florida, which lost 64-58 at Tennessee on Tuesday night and leads Alabama by just a game.
"The only thing that is guaranteed for us is that we play three more games and then get to go to the SEC Tournament," Grant said. "That's all. We don't have the luxury of looking at the bracket and picking our last four in or whatever. So our next game is the most important, because it is next."
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.