Alabama downs undefeated Auburn for signature win

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CW / Hannah Saad

Jack Kennedy | @jwkennedy24, Staff Reporter

Getting his first signature win at Alabama took a little bit longer than coach Nate Oats expected, but it couldn’t have been sweeter.

Auburn forward Anfernee McLemore said at SEC Media Days in October that Coleman Coliseum is his favorite arena to play because he likes “the look of disappointment on [Alabama fans’] faces when we win.”

But walking off the court on Wednesday night, McLemore could only see jubilation on their faces, as Alabama handed No. 4 Auburn its first loss of the season by a score of 83-64.

“I didn’t mind him adding a little spice to the rivalry,” Oats said. “… We made sure that quote was on the screen and it was the last thing the players saw before they went out. It’s nice that he gave us that.”

Alabama’s defense in the first half was as elite as it had been all season, holding Auburn to just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc and 9 of 29 from the field.

But Alabama fans had seen this movie before. Last season against Auburn in Coleman Coliseum, the Crimson Tide blew a 13-point second-half lead by allowing Auburn to go on a 18-2 run and eventually lost the game 66-60.

The flashbacks began to happen.

A 5-0 Auburn run in the final minute of the first half trimmed a 14-point Alabama lead to just nine at the break. The Tiger’s momentum continued after halftime, with McLemore and forward Danjel Purifoy leading a 18-6 run over the two halves.

But sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. changed Alabama’s fortune for the better.

With the lead at just 42-40 with 14:49 remaining in the game, Lewis began to blow past Auburn guards Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick and reached the rim with ease. He scored 17 points from that point on, including going 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Lewis finished with 25 points overall.

“The other day, Coach [Oats] and I sat down, and we looked at the shots I had been taking,” Lewis said. “He just said to get better shots and you know, be aggressive and if the defense comes over, spread out, and if it don’t, make a good play. That’s what I did tonight.”

Junior guard John Petty Jr., Alabama’s leading scorer, was neutralized by Auburn’s perimeter defense, as he scored just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting from three. In the Crimson Tide’s previous game against Kentucky, it had a tough time having a balanced offense with the team totaling just 41 outside of Petty and Lewis in its nine-point loss.

Against Auburn it had 51 points outside of its top two scorers with junior forwards Herbert Jones and Alex Reese finishing with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Jones recorded his second double-double of the season by adding 12 rebounds.

“This was a game where Petty wasn’t necessarily on fire,” Oats said. “He wasn’t hitting [shots] as he had been, but defensively and rebounding and everything else, I thought he was great. We are getting really good production from different areas from different guys.”

Alabama’s schedule becomes much easier after three Quadrant 1 opponents in its last four games. It could face as few as four the rest of the regular season. The Crimson Tide is scheduled to host Missouri, ranked 72nd in the NET, on Saturday at 2:30 pm.