TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – Four games in the SEC competition, the Tigers are still unfazed.
In the first ranked versus ranked clash in the rivalry since 1987, Auburn No.4 withstood a late 14-0 run by Alabama, and Allen Flanigan sank four huge free throws in the last minute, as the Tigers beat the Alabama No.24 inside the Coleman Coliseum, 81-77 on Tuesday night.
Here’s Auburn Undercover’s immediate take-out, as the Tigers won a road game against their state rival for just the 11th time in program history.
FURIOUS RALLY BY ALABAMA
Alabama can score at a lightning pace, and the Crimson Tide quickly got back into the game with a play-off on the stretch.
After Auburn gained 14 points with 8 minutes remaining, Alabama scored 14 in a row to tie the game at 73-73, including consecutive trebles and a poster dunk by JD Davison above Kessler Walker, who fouled a minute later.
Auburn missed five straight shots during the run and had four turnovers.
“Just stay focused, get stuck and make stops,” Flanigan said of his message to his teammates during the race. “And the rest will take care of itself, as long as we make stops.”
HUGE FLANIGAN LAUNCHES
Jabari smith dispelled the run with a pair of free throws after a rebound, but Jaden shackelford do both at the other end to tie things up.
Auburn has had a few transition basket opportunities, but Wendell Green Jr. (19 points) was stuck on a layup, and Flanigan returned the ball.
KD Johnson (13 points and eight rebounds) broke the tie with a driving layup to put Auburn 77-75 with 2 minutes left. Noah gurley quickly brought matters to a standstill with a pair of free throws.
Flanigan then pulled off a pair of big rebounds. First, he stole a second offensive rebound from Alabama in a possession; he suffered a foul near the Alabama bench and made both free throws on a night when the Tigers shot just 64 percent from the line.
Then he missed a failure by Jahvon quinerly and was wrapped. He did both again – his first four free throws of the game – to give Auburn an 81-77 lead with just 20 seconds left.
“I had very few doubts,” Pearl said of Flanigan’s trips to the charity band. “Those balls he fired didn’t even hit the edge. They barely hit the net. And Allen, I said to him after the game, ‘It’s all those hours in the gym with your grand- father and father. You deserved those shots. You won those free throws, and you made history tonight. ‘”
Flanigan added, “I mean, we shoot free throws every day, so just follow my routine. This is how you do best: just shoot and ignore the crowd.”
CARDWELL SEIZES HIS MOMENT
For the second game in a row Auburn faced fouling issues in his frontcourt as Kessler committed two fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game and only played 6 minutes in the first half. Yet Auburn’s rebound did not suffer; the Tigers still had a 25-19 advantage over the boards towards the locker room.
Kessler’s third foul came less than 2 minutes after the start of the second half. But bench production continued for Auburn in Game 4 of the SEC game, as a save center Dylan cardwell had more than a few highlights as Kessler bided his time.
Cardwell’s 6 points were all dunks, including two misses after Auburn’s misses. On the defensive end, he hit four shots – none greater than a throwing off the 3-point arc on a Quinerly shot that sealed Auburn’s victory with 13 seconds left.
“Dylan has stepped up his efforts,” Smith said. “I feel like he was the most important player tonight.”
THE FRESHMAN SHOWS
The projected choice in the top 5 and possible No. 1 overall made the show in the most poisonous environment in which he has played so far.
“I think the difference tonight was No. 10 in orange,” Pearl said.
Booed from the pre-game warm-ups, Smith tallied 11 points and three blocks in the game’s opening 11 minutes, and led all scorers with 13 points at halftime.
That total rose to 20 less than 3 minutes into the second half, with the five-star rookie making up seven of Auburn’s first nine points in the second half.
He finished with a high of 25 points on 8 of 14 shots, plus seven rebounds.
“I just came with the mentality in the game that I wasn’t going to let the crowd bother me,” Smith said after the game. “I was going to take my shot, get to my places and let the game come to me.”
A FUN NIGHT OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Bruce Pearl has, at least in recent seasons, encouraged Auburn fans to hit the road to see their Tigers play, as Auburn Arena is usually full – and expensive.
And the orange and blue devotees have come forward. By this reporter’s estimate, there were at least a few thousand Auburn fans in the building – and they were loud everywhere.
“Our fans travel like Kentucky fans now,” Pearl said. “That – that’s something else.”
On two occasions a loud “Let’s go Auburn” chant was matched by boos from Crimson Tide fans. As Alabama made its late run, the crimson in the crowd cheered.
Ultimately, it was the Tigers who had the final say. They danced to the center court logo before the game and danced after the final buzzer. They rushed over to the Alabama college section and laughed at Alabama football’s “crane kick” celebration. And when it was time to head to the locker room, they went nuts with Auburn fans in the building, jumping and celebrating a 4-0 start – and their continued reign atop the SEC.
Jabari Smith says goodbye. pic.twitter.com/te6eqXDHrq
– Nathan King (@ NathanKing247) January 12, 2022
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