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By Chris DePew
Jan. 21, 2017
After outplaying Auburn over the first 20 minutes and only managing a halftime tie, Alabama wilted down the stretch of a humiliating 84-64 road loss.
What did we learn today?: There is eventually a price to pay for bad habits and mediocre play. Truthfully, the Crimson Tide hasn’t put together a complete game since the SEC opener, but still managed a 4-1 start in conference play thanks to a butter-soft early schedule. All of that came crashing down Saturday as Auburn amped up the intensity and Bama had no answer. Freshman Austin Wiley, who didn’t even join AU until mid-season, did anything he pleased in the paint, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds while Donta Hall and Jimmie Taylor racked up fouls trying to stop him. That opened up the 3-point line for the Tigers, who went 8-for-13 from long range. Meanwhile Alabama continued to jack up contested 3-pointers, blissfully unaware it is a terrible team from behind the arc. Once Auburn expanded the lead in the closing minutes, Bama meekly backed down on defense and allowed a hard loss to turn into a blowout. But truthfully Alabama didn’t do anything much different than it had lately. It just learned that it isn’t nearly enough against a more talented team.
What were the biggest concerns?: Blame it on the refs or (more accurately) credit Auburn for being more aggressive, but any time you send another team to the foul line 42 times you can virtually guarantee a loss. Early foul trouble limited the minutes of Hall and Dazon Ingram, and those two (along with Braxton Key) were the only players who could hope to match the raw talent on Auburn’s young roster. It wound up not mattering, but another dreadful afternoon at the foul line (10-for-19) just accentuates how dreadful this team is on offense. The 16 Tide turnovers just give Avery Johnson one more thing to grit his teeth about.
What was the best part of the game?: Bola Olaniyan accumulated four fouls, but he came the closest to maximizing his talent and was one of the few that gave unquestioned effort to the final whistle. The graduate transfer had seven points, 11 rebounds and three assists and is emerging as the most consistent senior.
Who was the star?: Key made his share of freshman mistakes and then some, but he also carried the scoring load with 18 points and at times seemed to be the only Bama player on the floor who wanted the offense to go through him. The mistakes can be cured with experience but the aggressiveness can’t be taught, and will serve him well next year when a talent infusion will give him a chance to make a legitimate run at a NCAA tournament bid and more.
What’s next?: Bama goes back on the road against a Georgia Bulldogs squad fighting to stay on the bubble after a controversial loss to Texas A&M. Tipoff on ESPNU is set for 8 p.m. Central on Wednesday.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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