The game started much like the first matchup in auburn, with Bama sprinting out to a nice early lead. We did not shut them out for 7 minutes this time, but we held a 13-4 lead 6 minutes into the game. Eight minutes later, we were only up 15-13. When auburn switched to a zone our offense went stagnant and allowed auburn to get back into the game. These long stretches of scoring droughts continue to be a problem that will hurt us against decent competition. Fortunately we were able to bounce back and take a 23-16 lead into the half.
I thought the effort and intensity was much better in the second half. Trevor Lacey picked up his 3rd foul early, and Retin Obasohan came in and gave us a nice spark with 10 points. We stretched the lead to 24 at one point and the game was never really in doubt in the second half. Releford had another great day and is really shooting the ball well. I actually thought he did better than the 4 for 9 from 3 pt range (which is still very good) from the box score. Both Levi Randolph and Trevor Lacey continue to be in a slump. Levi did make a couple of floaters in the lane, so maybe seeing the ball go through the hoop will help his confidence and get him back on track. As for Lacey, I would like to see him more at the 2 spot and a little less running point, especially with the recent emergence of Retin Obasohan. Those who read this blog regularly know that I have been high on Retin's athleticism and quickness since day one, and it appears he is developing the basketball skills and decision making ability to be a more than serviceable point guard. Lacey needs to shoot his way out of this slump from the 2 position.
Nick Jacobs was able to get some revenge on Chubb after his AUful performance in auburn. He had a nice double double with 10 points and rebounds. Cooper made some good defensive plays but came back down to earth after having a couple of big games offensively. He appeared to be in pain on the bench late in the game and the trainers appeared to be looking at his ankle. Hopefully he is okay. It's always good to see the walkons get some playing time, too bad they weren't able to score.
While it wasn't pretty at times in the first half, I am pleased that we finally had a relatively easy win and did not play to the level of the competition.
The crowd was the smallest I can ever remember it for being an auburn game in a season that we beat them in football. I would say there was no more than 9,000 there, with surprisingly about 200 or so aubies scattered throughout. Usually the "football only" fans who buy up all the season tickets for Tide Totals points at least show up for this one game to see the trophy presentation at halftime. I guess when you are piling up crystal footballs every year, the ODK trophy loses some of its luster. The UA SGA President had a nice subtle zing when he "congratulated both teams on a successful season."
Up next, the game we have all been looking forward to, or dreading, as the case may be. We travel to Gainesville, FL to take on the Florida Gators at 12 eastern/11am central Saturday on ESPN. With Tennessee's win over Florida, we are now back in control of our own destiny in the SEC race. Florida has had a couple of key reserves injured who may or may not be back for Saturday. Clearly, they are the better team, playing at home, and we know Coach Grant has never beat Billy Donovan, but I don't think this is a horrible matchup for us. They rely a lot on their perimeter game, which is our strength. If Releford can stay hot, we get the good Nick Jacobs, Moussa stays out of foul trouble, the Gators have an off day and we can ugly up the game, we will have a chance. To make another football reference, as Mike Dubose would say, "this is a tremendous challenge but also a tremendous opportunity." With a win, we move into first place in the conference and suddenly our NCAA at large hopes are very much alive. Either way, we will soon know where we stand relative to the elite teams in college basketball. Do you believe in miracles?