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By Chris DePew
March 5, 2019
In a season defined by blown double-digit leads, Alabama coughed up another 13-point advantage in Coleman Coliseum, as Auburn rallied for a 66-60 win to complete the regular season sweep.
What did we learn today?: The Crimson Tide doesn’t deserve a return trip to the NCAA tournament, and it probably doesn’t have to worry about it any more. Gifted yet another opportunity at a quality win to burnish its credentials, Bama couldn’t close the deal against an Auburn team that has struggled to recreate last year’s chemistry and had no road wins of note. Furthermore the Tigers came out flat and disorganized, shooting in the 30s nearly all night until a late flurry put them at exactly 40 percent from the field for the game. But AU got off 60 shot attempts versus 49 for Bama because the Tide stopped competing on the glass and it turned it over 19 times, including 11 in the second half. A team has to play hard before it can move on to playing well, and this team still has glaring lapses in effort and energy when it should be putting teams away. That’s a big reason why Alabama hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since escaping a late-game meltdown against Mississippi State on Jan. 29.
What were the biggest concerns?: Botching another winnable game was a team effort, but John Petty had an especially egregious stretch that turned the game in Auburn’s favor. After a loose ball scramble he committed a silly foul while Jared Harper attempted a 3-pointer, sparking an 11-0 Tigers run. During that sequence, Petty threw a truly awful inbounds pass casually over his shoulder, which was immediately picked off and converted into a Chuma Okeke 3-pointer. Soon enough what had been a 43-31 lead was down to one at the under-12 timeout and it was clear that Auburn was going to soon seize control, which they promptly did. Petty’s effort has improved this season and he did have eight points and nine rebounds. But he also had six turnovers in yet another game where a 5-star player is making first-semester freshman mistakes at the end of his second year. That goes back to player development, something Avery Johnson hasn’t proven he can consistently produce after nearly four seasons in college coaching. Petty’s troubles are just a more exaggerated version of Bama’s problems as a unit. If a veteran team panics and loses focus this easily, what can we expect to be different next year with a rebuilt roster and potentially a gaping lack of talent at center?
What was the best part of the game?: The Tide was flying down the court in the opening minutes, willing to risk mistakes if it meant getting a shot off before Auburn could set up its half-court defense. For a while it was beating the Tigers at their own game, getting steals and 3-pointers from different players across the roster. But with a gimpy Dazon Ingram limited to 11 minutes and Kira Lewis the only consistent ball handler, Johnson had to pull back on the reins and the offense soon bogged down in the mud, finishing under 70 points for the seventh consecutive game.
Who was the star?: Very quietly, Herbert Jones is starting to work himself out of a deep slump. The sophomore from Hale County now has scored 11 points in back-to-back games, and also had three assists, three steals and three rebounds in 25 minutes against Auburn.
What’s next?: In what figures to be a battle to decided ninth place in the league, Alabama wraps up the regular season at Arkansas on Saturday. Tipoff on the SEC Network is at 5 p.m. Central.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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