No. 3 Alabama Defeats Auburn 77-69, Remains Unbeaten in SEC
Rylan Griffen and Mark Sears were the only Alabama players hitting their 3-point shots, and it was just enough.
Griffen scored 16 points, Sears added 15 and No. 3 Alabama held off a big challenge from its in-state rival, beating Auburn 77-69 on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide (22-3, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) remained the only Power-5 team without a league loss, but it was iffy most of the way with Auburn putting the defensive clamps on star Brandon Miller.
“I thought our guys showed some resilience to weather a bad shooting night from Brandon,” Tide coach Nate Oats said. “We had some other guys step up.”
The Tigers (17-8, 7-5) missed nine straight shots in the final minutes. They have dropped five of their last six after being ranked most of the way.
“Our team is playing good basketball right now,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said. “We’re playing well. We’re just not playing well enough to beat the best team in the country.”
Sears and Griffen helped Alabama overcome an off shooting performance from star Miller, who had 13 points but missed all seven 3-point attempts. They were a combined 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and the rest of the team went just 1 of 13.
Sears made 5 of 7 shots and had seven rebounds and three assists, and scored 10 points in the second half. Griffen scored 11 after halftime and made 3 of 5 3s. His dunk with 58 seconds left pushed Alabama’s lead to six points.
“Rylan was huge. We don’t win this game without Rylan,” Oats said. “And I really thought he did the best job defensively on Wendell (Green Jr.).”
Jaden Bradley missed only one shot and had 12 points.
Green had 16 of his 24 points in the second half for Auburn, going 7 of 19 from the floor. Jaylin Williams had 14 of his 16 points before the half and KD Johnson added 12.
Miller’s driving layup with 2:37 left gave Alabama a 71-66 lead, its biggest to that point. The Tigers went cold before Green’s layup at the buzzer that kept Alabama from its 11th double-digit SEC win.
“It was just tough down the stretch,” Williams said. “We needed stops. We stuck together but we couldn’t get stops and couldn’t get rebounds.”
Alabama shot 59.2% (29 of 49) in the game but the nation’s top rebounding team was edged on the boards, 36-34.
The Tide have won four straight since a road loss to Oklahoma.
“Every possession mattered to the very end,” Griffen said, “so learning from that Oklahoma game really helped us.”
Auburn led by as many as eight points in the first half, shutting down the Tide’s two top scorers most of the way. Miller didn’t score for more than 11 minutes and Sears got his first points at the free throw line with 4:26 left.
But it was 37-all by halftime with Miller missing his fourth straight 3-point attempt with a chance at the lead in the closing seconds. He scored six points below his average.
“We did a good job of guarding him from 3,” Pearl said, “but they’ve got a lot of weapons.”
Alabama: Has won 13 of its last 14. The Crimson Tide had lost both meetings with the Tigers last season. This time, the Tide outscored Auburn 44-20 in the paint.
Auburn fell to 1-2 against Top 25 teams this season. The Tigers hosted its first Top 5 team since losing to No. 2 Kentucky 68-53 on Feb. 11, 2012. Auburn made 22 of 26 free throws (84.6%).
Up next, Alabama visits No. 6 Tennessee on Wednesday night. Auburn hosts Missouri on Tuesday night.
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