The stage was set. Bruce Pearl had been hyping this game all year, talking about how he wants to beat Alabama more than anybody else. It was our first trip there with him as coach, and the 9,000 seat arena had long been sold out. They even planted new trees, with plans to vandalize their own campus in celebration of declaring supremacy in the state of Alabama in the sport of basketball with a victory over the Tide. Maybe they can use all of that toilet paper to dry their tears, because this is still our state.
If you haven't seen the post-game celebration, do yourself a favor. This team and Coach Grant have been through a lot, and it's great to see them having fun. I particularly enjoyed the flex, which was a clear mocking of Bowers' taunt during the game, for which he should have been assessed a technical foul.
This was arguably the best game we've played all year, especially when you consider Ricky Tarrant was out. We simply out worked them most of the night, especially on the boards. Taylor and Kessens combined for 15 rebounds. We actually shot the ball well, going 9 of 21 from 3 point range, but more importantly we didn't rely exclusively on the perimeter shot. We actually played at a decent tempo, and I would like to see us play at this pace more often going forward.
The team showed great poise in a very hostile environment. Things could have gotten out of hand early, when Kessens was the victim of a horrible illegal pick call from the officials. Mike set a great screen, the barners failed to communicate and the smaller auburn player ran into him full speed and fell down as if he just hit a brick wall, which metaphorically he did. Coach Grant rightfully argued the call, and was called for a technical foul. auburn led 13-7, but we immediately answered with a 7-0 run to regain the lead. I suspect Coach Grant intended to draw the technical to let his team know that he had their backs. None of us are happy with the overall results to this point in the season, but nobody can question that these guys are still fighting hard for their coach.
Levi has struggled in auburn throughout his career, but stepped up and had a huge game with 19 points. Hale, Coop, and Retin also scored in the double digits and Justin Coleman had a great game with 9 points and no turnovers.
We had one stretch late in the first half where we turned the ball over too much, which allowed auburn to take a 3 point lead into the half. We were much better in the second half and eventually pulled away late.
The coverage of this game by ESPNU was brutal. I wouldn't have even known the first foul was called on Jimmie Taylor if not for keeping up with twitter. The football references were too frequent, and frankly insulting to those of us who cherish the game of basketball. And enough about the stupid trees. I'm truly sorry that poor Bubba Bowling didn't have anywhere to throw his ass-wipes for a year, but can we move on already?
Obviously, this win does not change anything that I wrote after the Vanderbilt game. I still feel like the minimum expectations for this season should have been to make the NCAA tournament. I still don't think we have a chance of accomplishing that, short of a miracle run through the SEC tournament in Nashville. At this point, we are simply playing for seeding in the SEC tournament. All of that being said, it's great to beat your in-state rivals on the road and set them back a bit.
Up next, the Georgia Bulldogs come to Tuscaloosa for a 7pm tip-off Saturday night. This is your last chance to catch a home game on the weekend. The Dogs are hard to figure, they've looked like a lock and one of the top 3 teams in the league most of the season, but have lost 2 straight at home to auburn and South Carolina. The game will be televised on ESPN2.