The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

February 27, 2013

Alabama rebounds with 61-43 win over Auburn

By John Zenor
Associated Press



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The first half had a familiar feel for Alabama and Auburn: Good defense, scant offense.

This time, Trevor Releford and the Crimson Tide managed to break out of the scoring funk without letting up defensively after halftime, en route to a 61-43 victory over the rival Tigers on Tuesday night.

"The message at halftime was just we've got to come out and we've got to hit first and we just can't let up," said Releford, who scored 21 points. "We were very determined. We didn't like the way it went down in Auburn. This is our home court and we weren't going to let that happen."

Alabama (19-9, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) scored 38 points in the second half, 24 more than the team managed in the first meeting — a 49-37 loss 20 days earlier that remains Auburn's lone win during a 1-12 stretch.

The Tigers (9-19, 3-12) were just 15-of-50 shooting (30 percent) and scored a season-low in points. It was also the fewest points Auburn had produced in the series since a 39-37 loss in 1949.

"I thought the improvement that we made from 20 days ago showed because we didn't let it rattle us," Tide coach Anthony Grant said. "We were able to continue to defend, stay the course, and we were able to find some offensive success in the second half.

"I thought Trevor did a great job tonight. He was locked in. He was vocal. He was energetic, and I thought it was contagious for our team."

Releford turned in a nice follow-up to a career-best 36 points in a triple-overtime loss at LSU. He made 4 of 9 3-pointers.

Trevor Lacey added 12 points while Nick Jacobs had 10 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double. Retin Obasohan also had 10 points for the Tide, which visits No. 8 Florida on Saturday and is hoping to salvage its NCAA tournament hopes with a strong finish after coming in tied with Kentucky for second place in the league.

Rob Chubb led Auburn with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Leading scorer Frankie Sullivan was 1-of-9 shooting for six points and made just one of 22 shots in the two meetings.

Chris Denson, who came in averaging 11.3 points, missed all five attempts for two points.

"We probably missed 20 layups tonight," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "How are you going to win a game when you miss 20 layups?"

Alabama also outrebounded the Tigers 40-29.

The first half closely resembled the first meeting, when Alabama led 23-13 before making just six field goals after halftime for its lowest scoring output in 146 meetings. This time the Tide was up 23-16 despite managing just two points in a 12-minute span.

Releford ended that cold spell with a 3-pointer with 2:39 left to start an 8-3 closing run that carried over.

"We couldn't find a way to get the ball in the hole in the second half," Barbee said. "The end of the first half, it was still anybody's game but we had too many breakdowns right at the end of the half.

"You can't miss as many shots as we missed."

The Tide opened the second half on a 16-7spurt to build a 39-23 cushion that Auburn never challenged. Alabama shot 46 percent (13 of 28) in the second half.

That was the margin when Barbee was called for a technical foul during a media timeout with 11:04 left.

Alabama scored eight quick points after that. Releford hit the two resulting free throws and added a 3-pointer, then Obasahon also hit a pair from the line.

Releford's biggest highlight came in the final minute of a game long since decided. He appeared on the verge of losing control of the ball and somehow lobbed it up to Levi Randolph for an alley-oop.

"That was just random, I guess," Releford said. "Levi was just going backdoor and I was able to find him at the last minute."

Auburn was especially cold in the first half en route to its sixth straight loss. The Tigers went into the locker room after hitting 6 of 28 shots (21 percent).

Auburn was just 2 of 15 from 3-point range.