TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In a game that had everything imaginable, Auburn took to the floor against rivals No. 2 Alabama. Coming off a tough loss against Kentucky, the Tigers were in desperate need of a win not only to get back on track, but to secure their spot in the NCAA tournament. Despite building an impressive lead early on, the Tigers could not find the finishing pieces, ultimately losing 90-85 in overtime.
“I thought we represent the name on the front of our jersey as well as the name on the back of our jersey,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.
Jaylin Williams got the game going with two quick three pointers which gave Auburn an early advantage. Williams continued to impress in all areas of the game, finishing with 15 points, but was unable to contribute late due to fouling out of the game.
Three-pointers were key for Auburn’s success early on. The Tigers were able to go 6-for-8 from three-point range in the first half, before finishing 12-for-20.
Alabama would be all over Wendell Green Jr. early in the game not allowing him any open looks. The guard was limited to four points in the first, all from the free throw line. Due to this, Auburn would have to turn to its other guards to score.
K.D. Johnson stepped up to the challenge and put together what could be his best performance of the season coming off the bench. Johnson would take the game and make it his own as he made multiple crucial three-pointers in route to a team-high 21 points.
“K.D. has been working in the gym, he has raised his release point a little bit,” Pearl said. “K.D. is an athlete that is hard to stay in front of. He is 4-for-5 from three, was pretty effective. He got to the line 12 times and did a great job driving downhill.”
Turnovers would once again plague the Tigers. When all said and done, Auburn finished with 18 turnovers, nine of which came in the first 10 minutes of the game. Alabama was able to convert on multiple of Auburn’s turnovers which resulted in 18 points.
Auburn’s bench played a big role throughout the duration of the game. Johnson contributed the most scoring wise, paving the way for 34-point bench effort. Tre Donaldson impressed, putting together a solid 10 minutes of play in the first half that saw the him shoot 3-for-3 while collecting seven points.
“The bench was terrific,” Pearl said. “I thought Tre Donaldson stepped up, played with a lot of confidence.”
The most crucial part of Auburn’s bench very well could have been Chris Moore. The forward was tasked with guarding star freshman Brandon Miller and did a phenomenal job, holding him to three field goals the whole night.
“Chris Moore was fantastic,” Pearl said. “Chris Moore’s defense on Brandon Miller was great.”
Both teams started out hot in the second half, scoring a combined 23 points in just five minutes of action.
For Auburn, it was Johni Broome who contributed to the massive points total. After a quiet first half, the big man cemented his role with an early six points.
The scoring frenzy would be short lived for Auburn, as Alabama would go on a 16-0 run to close the gap on the monstruous lead the Tigers had built.
During this time, a scuffle broke out that posed to be crucial to Alabama’s comeback. The incident occurred when Broome would reach for a lobbed ball, but untimely a foul was called on Auburn’s big man that would see him foul out.
Shortly after, Broome’s replacement, Dylan Cardwell, would go down with an ankle injury, leaving Auburn with no real presence in the paint.
“Dylan Cardwell goes down with an ankle, my most physical player, so we were incredibly outnumbered at the end,” Pearl said.
Due to this, an unlikely hero would emerge for Alabama. Jahvo Quinerly would put together a dominate 15-point half to give the Crimson Tide life. When the likes of Brandon Miller and Mark Sears were nonexistent, Quinerly stepped up and had his way with the Auburn defense, as he would go on to finish with a game-high 24 points, playing a crucial role in Auburn’s downfall.
Auburn will be back in action for the final time in the regular season this Saturday. The Tigers will host the Tennessee Volunteers at Neville Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and broadcasted by ESPN.