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February 6, 2013

Alabama crumbles in second half

AUBURN | The University of Alabama entered Wednesday's game in Auburn Arena on a five-game winning streak against its archrival, and by halftime it appeared that the Crimson Tide's dominance in the series, and Auburn's struggles this season, would continue.

But after Alabama held Auburn to a poor shooting first half, the roles reversed in the second half, and Auburn escaped with a 49-37 men's basketball win.

Alabama (14-8, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) coach Anthony Grant's team finished 14 of 49 from the field (28.6 percent), recording its lowest scoring total in Alabama-Auburn series history.

"I give Auburn credit," Grant said. "I thought tonight we got outplayed in every facet of the game. Their energy, their effort and their focus was a lot better than ours. I think obviously in the second half it showed. You look at the run they went on, our inability to score."

Alabama jumped out to a 9-0 lead at the start of the game and held a 23-13 lead at halftime as Auburn shot 3 of 23 during the half.

"The defense was good enough in the first half," Grant said. "They missed shots. They struggled offensively. We should've opened the game up, and then in the second half, I don't know if maybe we thought maybe it would duplicate itself from a defensive standpoint in the second half.

"But their energy was much better than ours, they outhustled us for loose balls, they got out in transition and got layups. Their effort kept going up, and we didn't match that. And you can't do that."

Auburn's 13 points in the first half were the fewest for the Tigers (9-13, 3-6) in a half since they scored six in the first half of a loss against LSU on Jan. 8, 2011. But the Tigers started the second half against Alabama on a 20-3 run to take a 33-26 lead that was too much for the Crimson Tide to overcome.

"For whatever reason it was, it just dropped off," Alabama senior Andrew Steele said. "I think maybe we got complacent with a 10-point lead at the half, and we've been in enough situations to know that in this league no matter who you're playing, it's not safe. Even with a 10-point lead, they came out with energy, and I just honestly believe we have to look in the mirror and try to find ways for these things to not happen again."

Wednesday's win marked the first victory against Alabama for third-year Auburn coach Tony Barbee.

"This is a big game," Barbee said. "No matter what rivalry you are a part of, you always want to beat your rival. We understand how big this game is in the state and within the Auburn family."

Allen Payne led the way for Auburn with 11 points and had six rebounds. Josh Wallace added another 11 points for the Tigers.

Trevor Releford and Rodney Cooper each scored 11 points for Alabama in the losing effort.

"The thing is, we've talked about the things we need to do," Grant said. "We've talked about the opportunities we have in front of us. I can't explain the lack of effort, the lack of energy, the lack of execution.

"I have no explanation for it."


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