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Wendell Green Jr. (1) during the game between the #3 Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers at Neville Arena in Auburn, AL on Saturday, Feb 11, 2023.
Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers
Wendell Green Jr. (1) during the game between the #3 Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers at Neville Arena in Auburn, AL on Saturday, Feb 11, 2023. Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers

Another Game, Another Missed Opportunity

Alabama (22-3, 12-0 SEC) defeated Auburn (17-8, 7-5 SEC) on Saturday in Neville Arena. It was an all-too-familiar situation for Auburn. Yet again, the Tigers felt one slip away in the final minutes of the game. Despite leading for twenty-five minutes of the game, Auburn could not hold off the Tide, who went on an 11-to-5 run to finish the game. 

Auburn has lost five of its last six, but with the exception of the first Texas A&M matchup, the games have come down to the final minutes. The Tigers were hoping this time they could flip the script and finish a close game out. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Tide were not going to let their arch-rival end this trend against them. 

Auburn started off the game well. Jaylin Williams had a big half, knocking down a couple of threes, and Auburn led by as many as eight points. 

"They were sagging off a little bit... the shots were there," said Williams. 

Auburn's defense also played solid and made life difficult for superstar Brandon Miller. 

"We did a pretty good job on Brandon, but they've got a lot of weapons," said Pearl. 

Auburn emphasized defending the three-point line and held Alabama to only three-made three-pointers in the first half. The Tide, however, were able to find success in the paint and ended up shooting sixty-three percent from the field in the half. Alabama's success in the paint helped make up for Auburn's hot three-point shooting and the game was tied at thirty-seven at the half. 

Auburn would jump out to another early lead in the second half led by knocking down a three and getting to the foul line. Alabama would respond, and the game would go back and forth until the final five minutes of the game. At this point, Alabama began to pull away. Auburn would cut Bama's lead to two with a little over three-minutes left, but in the end were not able to make the big shots. The Tigers had multiple good looks in the closing minutes but were not able to knock any down, allowing Alabama to get back in transition and extend their lead. 

"We put ourselves in a position once again to win the game... we didn't make shots," said Pearl. 

For Auburn forward Jaylin Williams, however, the defense was the reason for the tough finish. 

"We couldn't get stops when we needed to get stops," said Williams. S

uffice to say, the overall play for the Tigers to finish out games has not been good enough. The competition has certainly been stiffer during this losing skid, which certainly has played a role in the Tigers struggles as well. 

"We've lost to five NCAA (Tournament) teams," said Pearl. 

The next two games are games in which Auburn will be favored, but will the end of games still be an issue? That question remains to be answered, but the Pearl still feels confident about this team and its future. 

"We're playing well, just not well enough to beat the best team in the country," said Pearl. 

Losing five out of six games is tough; losing to your arch rival at home makes it even tougher. However, if Pearl is right, it is not all "gloom and doom" on the plains for this year's Auburn basketball team. As it stands, Auburn is still in the NCAA Tournament, but its margin for error is thin. They know they must beat the teams they are supposed to beat the rest of the way out. 

"Now the NCAA Tournament is on the line," said Pearl. 

Tuesday, back inside of Neville Arena is one of those games that Auburn needs to win. They'll face a talented Missouri team who is currently on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament. The game will answer if the Tigers can get the train back on track. 

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