By Chris DePew
Jan. 19, 2016
Avery Johnson’s introduction to the Auburn feud was a rude one, as Alabama wasted a career night from Retin Obasohan in an 83-77 road loss that dropped the Crimson Tide to 1-4 in the SEC.
What did we learn today?: Without Obasohan this team would be doomed to a losing record – and might be anyway. Credit to Auburn, which rode the momentum of its second (and final?) home sellout of the season and dust off all your favorite clichés about rivalries, but this is the first time Johnson’s team has lost against an opponent that didn’t have a clear talent advantage. Auburn is now 3-3 in the SEC, but still just 9-8 overall and unlikely to reach the postseason with a paper-thin bench and over-reliance on 3-pointers. As for the Tide (10-7), a Groundhog Day game at Mississippi State may be the only chance it has at avoiding an 0-8 road record in league play.
What were the biggest concerns?: Obasohan’s 27 points stood in stark contrast to the 25 Bama got from its other four starters. Shannon Hale managed 13 points and Justin Coleman and Riley Norris added nine each, but the three of them combined to shoot 9-for-28 from the field. As Obasohan wore down and cramped up down the stretch, no one stepped up. But maybe the most galling part were the multiple breakdowns on defense that left the Tigers open time and again from 3-point range. Auburn sank 11 treys, including five by Kareem Canty. Meanwhile, Cinmeon Bowers exposed all the flaws in Bama’s shaky frontcourt, collecting 20 points and 18 rebounds. For a second straight game, Bama outshot its opponent from the field only to be done in at the foul line. Auburn was 28-for-40 from the stripe, Bama just 19-for-28.
What was the best part of the game?: When it wasn’t settling for dubious 3-pointers, Alabama gashed the Tigers with Obasohan’s drives to the paint. It was hard for either team to maintain a rhythm thanks to 53 fouls, but there were stretches when the offense click and the Tide looked as comfortable shooting as it has all year. Auburn had lots of chances to blow the game open after halftime and never could. Barring injuries or other surprises, Alabama figures to be favored for the Feb. 27 rematch in Tuscaloosa.
Who was the star?: Until he had to start flinging desperate shots at the very end, Obasohan shot over 50 percent from the floor and still wound up going 8-for-17 from the floor, including 3-for-6 from behind the arc. He also grabbed six rebounds in 36 minutes and showed all the guts and focus you could hope for,
What’s next?: Alabama gets a turn to ride the energy of a sellout crowd when LSU and future No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons invade Coleman Coliseum for a 1 p.m. tipoff on ESPNU.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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