Auburn avenges loss to Tide with overtime thriller
Auburn, Ala. - February 12, 2020
Auburn beats Alabama 95-91 in overtime.
The Tigers were ready to avenge their loss from earlier this season, jumping out to a 16-0 lead. It took the Crimson Tide five minutes to put points on the board and another minute to get their first field goal. Alabama could not buy a bucket or a rebound in those first six minutes and could have easily given up, but they didn't.
The Tide inevitably started hitting their shots and kept the game relatively close, the lead fluctuating from anywhere from 11 to seven points during the first half. The Tide eventually shrunk the lead down to one with a minute left in the half. If the Tide hadn't fronted Auburn 16 points to start the game, Alabama might have been able to grab the lead in the first half. Instead, the Tigers took a 44-41 lead into halftime.
Isaac Okoro decided to take over the game for the Tigers to start the second half. Okoro made his first four field goals, which included a viscous fast break dunk that fired up the jungle. A pair of made free-throws would give Okoro ten points in the half before we were even halfway through the second half.
The Tigers were able to grow the lead back up to double digits thanks to the Tide's foul trouble. The Tide had committed nine fouls in less than ten minutes, giving Auburn plenty of chances at the free throw line. Auburn seemed to be in a giving mood as well, putting the Tide in the double bonus with seven minutes left.
The three-pointer kept Alabama in this game in the second half. Every time Auburn would build the lead a little bit, Alabama would hit a couple of threes to narrow the gap and silence the crowd. The Tide hit 10 threes in the second half and 22 overall, a new SEC record. "We could've done a better job getting out there and contesting a bit," said Bruce Pearl. "Put the ball on the floor a little bit, extended a bit harder." A three-pointer by Kira Lewis Jr. reduced the Tigers lead to one with 3:41 left.
With 1:44 left and the Tigers hanging on to a 80-78 lead, Okoro went down during a fast break, appearing to have injured his right leg. The Tigers were going to have to finish the game off without their breadwinner. Of course finishing off means hitting their free-throws, which is easier said than done for this Tigers team. Anfernee McLemore missed two free-throws with the Tigers up three, which would have iced the game. Instead of the game being effectively over, John Petty Jr. was able to make a three-pointer to tie the game 81-81.
J'von McCormick would miss a three-pointer at the buzzer and the game would head to overtime.
I always say the golden rule of overtime in college basketball is the team that forces overtime, in this case Alabama, wins. Thankfully for Auburn this was not the case.
The Tide forgot to score points in the first three minutes of overtime, but would hit three three-pointers in the next 90 seconds to make it a two point game at 93-91. The scenario was the same for Auburn as it was at the end of regulation. Make your free-throws and you win. McCormick was up for the task, hitting two free-throws to make it a four point lead. The game was effectively over, but a steal by McCormick on Alabama's next possession would seal the victory for good for the Tigers.
This victory for the Tigers would move them to 5-0 in overtime this season. The last three victories for the Tigers also came in overtime. "We put in a lot of work in the summer time and I feel like when it's overtime that's always an advantage for us," said Samir Doughty. "We built for moments like that."
The Tigers out-rebounded the Tide 60 to 44, which in a close game like this one, makes all the difference. Wiley had 17 of those rebounds to go along with 18 points. "In our family, you gotta beat Alabama," said Austin Wiley.