Johnson and players discuss the significance of the Iron Bowl rivalry

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Tyler Waldrep

When Alabama tipped off against Auburn on Jan. 19, Alabama coach Avery Johnson felt somewhat removed from the rivalry. He may have felt like an outsider then, but he doesn’t have those feelings anymore.

“Now, I understand why it [the rivalry] means so much to so many people,” Johnson said. “I’ve been through it. I think I’m embracing it much more this time around.”

Watching his team compete hard in Auburn Arena only to walk away with its fourth loss in five games left an impression on Johnson.

“[This rivalry] it’s kind of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” Johnson said.

This time, in front of a sellout crowd, and with a potential to get swept by Auburn in his first season on the line, the stakes are even higher.

Alabama currently leads the overall series 92-60. Auburn has failed to get a victory in Coleman Coliseum in its last six trips to Tuscaloosa. Johnson would like to make it seven on Saturday.

If sophomore Riley Norris ever felt like an outsider in the Alabama-Auburn rivalry he might not be able to remember it.

“Growing up, like I’ve said, Alabama fan, you know this game’s huge.” Norris said. “[You] always want to beat Auburn.”

Norris’ teammate and captain, Retin Obasohan, didn’t have the same experience growing up. In fact before Alabama recruited the Belgian, he didn’t know much if anything about either school, much less the rivalry between them.

On Saturday, Obasohan, a senior, will take the court against the Tigers for the last time barring a matchup in the SEC Tournament.

“I’ve just learned to appreciate the rivalry and the history and tradition that’s behind it, and it’s cool because we don’t really have things of that nature, as much, in Belgium where I’m from,” Obasohan said. “I’m looking forward to playing my last Iron Bowl and getting the W.”