No. 4 Auburn tops Alabama at Coleman Coliseum
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Jabari Smith scored a career-high 25 points and Allen Flanigan made four free throws in the final minute to lead No. 4 Auburn to an 81-77 victory Tuesday over No. 24 Alabama at Coleman Coliseum.
“You win at Alabama, you make history,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Jabari Smith showed by he’s such a great player. All he cares about is winning.”
Flanigan’s clutch foul shots, sandwiched between his defensive rebound, broke a 77-77 tie after Alabama’s 14-0 run erased the Tigers’ 73-59 lead.
“Just staying focused, being confident, take the shot and ignore the crowd,” Flanigan said. “Stay locked in and get stops, and the rest will take care of itself. I knew it was going to come down to the final minutes. In the end, rebounding, getting stops and knocking down free throws.”
The Tigers (15-1) won their 12th straight and improved to 4-0 in the SEC. They are now tied with Davidson for the longest active winning streak in college basketball.
“We won the game with our defense, by getting stops,” Pearl said. “I think our defense was what saved us late.”
“That was the main message inside the huddle,” Flanigan said. “Stay down, get steps, rebound and run on the break.”
Dylan Cardwell’s blocked shot with 13 seconds secured Auburn’s victory, the Tigers’ third in Tuscaloosa in the past six seasons. Auburn held the home team without a field goal in eight attempts over the final four minutes.
Cardwell and Smith each blocked four shots.
“His physicality was huge,” said Pearl of Cardwell, who added six points and six rebounds while filling in for Walker Kessler, who fouled out in 13 minutes.
So vocal were the thousands of Auburn fans in attendance, Alabama’s staffers were forced to crank the music to drown out the shouts of “Let’s go Auburn.”
“The Auburn family turned out,” Pearl said. “Our fans are traveling, and it is exciting. It’s a great recognition of our program. This is our rival. Our fans are traveling like Kentucky fans now.”
Wendell Green Jr. scored 19 points, K.D. Johnson scored 13 and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, and Flanigan added 10 points.
The Tigers came out hot in the second half, taking a 10-point lead on Cardwell’s follow-up slam and a 3-pointer from Green.
Green’s steal and reverse layup extended the Tigers’ lead to 61-49 before an 8-0 Alabama run cut Auburn’s lead to 61-57.
Green took over in a 9-0 run that restored Auburn’s double-digit lead, feeding Cardwell for a dunk, splitting two defenders for a reverse layup and then hitting a deep 3-pointer.
Smith’s corner 3-pointer gave Auburn a 73-59 with 7:57 to play before Alabama scored 14 straight points to tie it at 73-73 with 4:04 to play.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Smith said. “We knew it was going to be a hostile environment. We just had to stay together and not let the run bother us. They hit some big shots and the crowd got into it. We just had to lock back in on what got us that 14-point lead.”
Smith scored 13 points in the first half to help Auburn take a 40-35 lead. Smith scored 11 of the Tigers’ first 23 points.
Devan Cambridge finished an alley-oop pass from Green to cap a 6-0 run that put the Tigers ahead 29-23.
Johnson helped Auburn build its biggest lead of the half at 34-25 by hitting a deep 3-pointer, then making a steal, getting fouled and hitting both free throws.
Cambridge tipped in a teammate’s miss with one second left to give the Tigers a five-point lead at intermission.
Auburn concludes its two-game road trip Saturday at Ole Miss at 7:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.