Bama Hoops Hype

Preview: Alabama Meets Auburn For Third Time This Season

Alabama Men's Basketball

Alabama got the big boost it needed on Thursday and now it has an opportunity to control its fate.

The Crimson Tide ended a five-game losing streak in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Collin Sexton knocked down a buzzer beater to cap off a thrilling victory in the Tide’s third game against Texas A&M this season.

Friday brings a new challenge but it is against another team that Alabama fans are very familiar with. Auburn enters St. Louis as the top-seeded team after winning its first SEC regular season championship since 1999. The Tigers are looking to solidify their spot as a top three seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Although Sexton’s last-second shot came with a big boost of confidence, the Crimson Tide are still sitting on the bubble. A win against Auburn would solidify Alabama’s spot in March and it would be the second consecutive year with an appearance in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.

In the season’s first meeting between these two teams, John Petty led the way with 27 points to give Auburn its first loss of conference play. Since that game, Petty has averaged just 7.4 points per game.

It was really the Tide’s defense that pushed them over the top in that victory. Auburn’s 71 points were a season low at the time and the Tigers shot below 40 percent from the field for just the third time in the season.

Sexton scored 25 points in his only appearance against the Tigers this season. It was the most points he scored in any regular season game against a conference opponent. It did not matter much though as Auburn’s rebounding and 3-point shooting led it to a 90-71 win.

Friday will bring a rare rubber match in the rivalry series. It will be the first time since 1999 that the two teams will meet in the postseason. That was a 93-61 Auburn win so Crimson Tide fans will certainly be hoping for a different result.

How To Keep Up

Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Mo.

When: Noon CT

Watch: ESPN

Listen: Crimson Tide Sports Network with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink

Projected Starting Lineups

Alabama (18-14, 8-10): Collin Sexton (18.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.6 apg), Dazon Ingram (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.6 apg), John Petty (10.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.9 apg), Braxton Key (7.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.9 apg), Donta Hall (10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg)

No. 16 Auburn (25-6, 13-5): Bryce Brown (16.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg), Jared Harper (13.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.7 apg), Mustapha Heron (16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 spg), DeSean Murray (10.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.8 apg), Horace Spencer (4.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg)

Key Matchup

Jared Harper vs. Collin Sexton. This was the key matchup in the second meeting and it was so good that we’ll keep it here for this game too. The former high school teammates racked up 46 points in Auburn two weeks ago. Sexton and Harper combined to shoot 12-for-22 from the field, 5-for-11 from beyond the arc and 17-for-19 from the free throw line. Sexton might have had the better individual performance but Harper was a big part of Auburn’s quick start that helped it pull away from the Tide. If Harper and the Tigers get off to another quick start, Alabama will need more than just Sexton. Either way, this should be a fun matchup to watch.

Key Stats

12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.8 apg. Braxton Key is 1-3 in his career against Auburn but he has not been backing down in these rivalry games. All three of those stats – Key’s averages in four games against Auburn – are above the career average for Key. You can throw in 1.3 blocks per game to the list as well. This season, Alabama has struggled to keep the Tigers off the glass. Auburn holds a plus-4 overall advantage in the rebounding department. In two games against Alabama, the Tigers hold a plus-12 advantage in offensive rebounds and plus-18 advantage in second chance points. Braxton Key was the leading rebounder for the Tide in both of those games. That may not be a good sign for Alabama but it shows that the sophomore may have a natural instinct for being in the right spot against the Tigers. Key will need to continue to be a factor on the boards while being more aggressive offensively (he totaled just eight shot attempts in the first two games against Auburn). Alabama brings plenty of talent to the table but experience always makes a difference in March and Key could be that guy on Friday.

Prediction

Ending a five-game losing streak comes with a lot of emotions. Ending it with that kind of buzzer beater: I cannot even understand it. I expect to see Alabama play better basketball than it did in Auburn last month but the Tigers are still playing with a chip on their shoulder too. If you thought Thursday’s game was stressful, you may not need to watch this one.  Auburn 79, Alabama 72

Caleb Turrentine is the editor for Bama Hoops Hype. You can follow him on Twitter for in-game updates at @BamaHoopsHype.

Facebook Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login