Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats on Auburn trash talk: 'We'll see tomorrow'
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Alabama coach Nate Oats on Auburn trash talk: 'We'll see tomorrow'

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nate Oats smiled and turned his head at the Alabama basketball media representative during the final question following Tuesday’s practice.

“You cut it off one question too late,” Oats said playfully.

The question was one Oats was expecting heading into Alabama's Wednesday matchup against No. 4 Auburn. During SEC Basketball Media Day in October, Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore said that Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum was his favorite visiting SEC venue to play in, stating, “I like the look of disappointment on their faces when we win.”

Oats previously commented on the statement shortly after it was made. However, he inevitably sounded off again Tuesday when it was re-addressed.

“We’ll see if it’s still his favorite place to play tomorrow,” Oats said. “I had to figure out what he meant by all that, but I think I got what meant by it now. So we’ll see tomorrow.”

Auburn swept last year’s two meetings against Alabama, beating the Crimson Tide 84-63 at home and 66-60 inside Coleman Coliseum. The Tigers have won 5 of 7 against Alabama since 2017, including 2 of 3 in Tuscaloosa.

McLemore, a senior, is 2-1 inside Coleman Coliseum. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward averaged 4.67 points, 4 rebounds and shot a combined 5 of 16 (31.25 percent) in those games.

“We didn’t pay that no attention,” Alabama guard John Petty Jr. said of McLemore’s remarks. “He’s just talking.”

While Alabama claims it is not focused on the bulletin-board material coming in from across the state, Auburn certainly has the Crimson Tide’s full attention this week. The Tigers (15-0, 3-0 in the SEC) join San Diego State (17-0) as the two remaining undefeated teams in Division I basketball. Better yet, Auburn has won 27 of its last 28 games with its lone loss coming to eventual national champion Virginia last season’s Final Four.

Wednesday’s matchup will serve as Oats’ introduction to the rivalry. However, the first-year head doesn’t need to be reminded what is at stake.

"Even if it wasn't Alabama-Auburn, if you've got an undefeated team coming in that played in the Final Four last year, it should be a huge game for your program. The fact that it is Auburn makes it that much bigger."

Oats, who came to Alabama last spring after spending the past four seasons at Buffalo, said he’s aware of how much Wednesday’s game means to the Crimson Tide fan base. When asked how much he understands about the rivalry, the head coach smiled and responded, “Better not lose the game, that’s what I know about it.”

Rivalry aside, Oats also pointed out that Alabama (8-7, 1-2) will need to respond from its weekend loss to Kentucky in order to avoid digging itself too deep of a hole as it continues into conference play.

“If we can scrap and claw our way back to .500 in the SEC, that’s as important as beating Auburn, to be honest with you,” he said.

Alabama has had its troubles in big games this season. The Crimson Tide was out-rebounded 60-31 in a loss to then-ranked No. 6 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in November. Alabama then let two road wins slip out of its hands as it suffered a narrow defeat at Penn State in December before blowing a 21-point lead at Florida earlier this month. During its most recent loss to No. 10 Kentucky on Saturday, Alabama shot an uncharacteristic 4 of 21 from beyond the arc.

Oats said he gave his team an off day on Sunday before returning to the court Monday for a practice he described as “a hard one.”

“It was very tough,” Petty said. “We broke down our Kentucky film. We watched our mistakes. We watched everything from that game, and we just came back in and fixed it. Now it’s on to Auburn, and it’s time to get right.”

Alabama and Auburn are set to tip off at 8 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Oats said he’s expecting a sell out as well as a raucous environment from the hometown crowd inside Coleman Coliseum — that, and hopefully a lack of disappointed faces come the final buzzer.

“It’s going to be a good game,” Oats said. “I’m pretty sure our guys will bring some intensity about them that will make it well worth it to those fans to show up.”

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