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February 25, 2013

Loss to Auburn still stings for Alabama

TUSCALOOSA | Auburn will not bring a 12-game Southeastern Conference losing streak into Coleman Coliseum tonight.

The reason for that? Alabama.

The Tigers have struggled mightily for the past six weeks of the college basketball season, but the lone bright spot came Feb. 6 when the Tigers overcame a halftime deficit to hand the Crimson Tide a 49-37 loss. There is plenty of motivation on both sides tonight, as there always is when intrastate rivals meet, but for Alabama, that memory should suffice.

"Last time, we got outplayed in a lot of areas," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Monday. "I thought that was in the effort department. We did not perform to the best of our abilities ... and it ended up being a double-figure game."

"Every loss sticks out," UA guard Andrew Steele said. "But that game, I think that it was disappointing the way we came out in the second half with a lack of focus and energy. That is what ultimately determined the game. Auburn came out ready to play (and) we had some mental breakdowns."

Since then, Auburn has lost five straight, including an 88-55 defeat against Ole Miss last Saturday that left Tiger coach Tony Barbee frustrated with his team's effort as well.

"We're getting off to fairly decent starts and then something happens in the game and it seems like we fall apart," Barbee said Monday. "I have no idea what that is."

Alabama was also frustrated last Saturday, but in a different way, as opportunities slipped away in a triple-overtime loss at LSU. However, Steele said the Crimson Tide - an 11-point favorite tonight - would be "ready to go."

"If your story is that we aren't going to be ready, then write that," he said. "But my team is going to be ready to play.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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