By Chris DePew
Feb. 2, 2019
Alabama surrendered 30 points off 21 turnovers Saturday night as the Crimson Tide wilted once again at Auburn Arena, falling 84-63 to the Tigers.
What did we learn today?: Auburn’s style of play once again exposed Bama’s lack of high-quality athletes, especially in the starting five. Tevin Mack was a prolific scorer in his last season at Texas and has hovered somewhere between bust and semi-reliable starter. Herbert Jones was getting legitimate consideration as a draft prospect in the preseason but hasn’t improved his shaky offensive skill and has regressed on defense. Dazon Ingram is averaging career lows in points per game, rebounds per game and minutes played, including his original freshman season in 2015 that ended with a medical redshirt. And all three have started every game of 2019 because other than John Petty (who already gets starter-level minutes) there is no realistic replacement available. Against the Tigers, the trio combined for eight points, seven turnovers and 12 turnovers. All three are eligible to return next year but it wouldn’t be a shock if one or more transferred out, considering the influx of Top 100 recruits coming in next season and the success multiple players have found at new schools after leaving Avery Johnson’s program.
What were the biggest concerns?: The Crimson Tide knew exactly what Auburn wanted to do and was powerless to stop it. The Tigers live and die with 3-pointers, and sure enough they went 13-for-24 from deep, with Bama getting suckered into leaving shooters wide open time and again. Auburn likes to speed teams up and get them out of their regular offense, and the Tide obliged them by jacking up quick shots that led to quick breakouts and an 18-6 Tigers edge in fast break points. Auburn has used big runs to energize its home crowd in its biggest game of the year and break Alabama’s will to compete, and the Tide gave up separate runs of 21-2 and 19-2. Johnson has now lost in all four trips to the Plains, with the last three coming by margins of 20, 19 and now 21 points. That’s not the way to endear yourself to an athletic director who didn’t hire you and is trying to raise money for a complete arena renovation.
What was the best part of the game?: The only freshman in an Alabama uniform played with more poise than many of the upperclassmen. Kira Lewis scored nine of his 13 points in the first half and finished 4-for-6 from the floor, with speed and aggressiveness to match Auburn’s talented backcourt. Bama could stand for his swagger to rub off on his teammates, not only for next month’s rematch at Coleman Coliseum but for next year when Bama could be playing as many as six freshmen and will need an attitude reset from the current group that seems to accept defeat as soon as it crosses the Lee County line.
Who was the star?: Petty hit double figures for the fifth in six conference games, making half of his 14 field goals for 18 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. He still has nights where he disappears from the stat sheet, but those are becoming more infrequent and it’s possible to see him developing into a team leader by the end of this season and the unquestioned bell cow next fall. The next step will be for him to take ownership of the team on the floor and in the huddle. Johnson should consider moving him into the starting five to see if can spur him into becoming more vocal.
What’s next?: A two-game stretch of “can’t afford to lose” contests begins Wednesday with a home matchup against the slumping Georgia Bulldogs. Tipoff on the SEC Network is at 8 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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