Bigs step up and provide a spark in Alabama's victory over Auburn

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Tyler Waldrep

Donta Hall stood over his latest victim, Auburn’s Horace Spencer, and pounded his chest with one hand.

“Donta Hall, his defense, the way he finished around the basket, his rebounding,” coach Avery Johnson said. “It was just exciting to see his growth and maturation, I’m awfully proud of him.”

Spencer was hardly the first player to get denied by the freshman this year. Hall currently has 39 blocks this season trailing only starter Jimmie Taylor’s 50.

Hall finished Alabama’s 65-57 victory over Auburn with a career-high 10 points, a team-high 8 rebounds (five of which came on offense) and a game-high 2 blocks.

“I grew a lot more in my offensive game rebounding wise and big in the post,” Hall said. “Blocking shots is something I’ve been doing, but I got to keep that constant too.”

Hall has been giving fans in Coleman Coliseum a reason to stand and cheer for weeks, if not months, but against Auburn fellow big Michael Kessens earned at least one ovation on Saturday when he scored on back-to-back dunks.

Kessens said his aggressive play on the dunks was a bit angry.

“It’s Auburn, it’s a rivalry sometimes it gets personal out there,” Kessens said. “I just knew I had to go up there [and get the dunk].”

Johnson said when he took over the program he heard the talk about Kessens and other returning players, but Kessens worked hard to overcome injuries and get in perhaps the best shape of his life.

“Those two dunks were ferocious, I mean wow. Now I know that he can do that, that’s going to be the expectation,” Johnson said. “I know he only had seven, but it felt like he had 12 points tonight.”

Both players chose a good night to pick up the pace. Hall’s blocks and team-high eight first half points helped keep the game from getting out of hand while Retin Obasohan struggled with foul trouble early.

You know, Retin draws a lot of attention and a game tonight, a low scoring game, we get three guys in double figures. Our last game it was basically like Retin was a one man band,” Johnson said. “It takes us to a whole other level if Mike and Donta play with that type of energy and [are] just finishing inside.”