Jan. 23, 2007
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - The Auburn Tigers were racking up breakaway dunks, sneaking to the basket for uncontested layups and generally having no problems scoring against No. 12 Alabama.
The Tigers put an emphatic end to a seven-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide, using quickness and a dominant second half to beat their in-state rival 81-57 on Tuesday night.
The Tigers (13-8, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) scored the first eight points of the second half to overcome a 36-35 deficit and hardly looked back.
Auburn hadn't beaten Alabama (15-4, 2-3) since 2003 and has now won two games against ranked teams in a six-day stretch after ending an 0-for-15 stretch against then-No. 22 Tennessee.
"That's as good as we can play in the second half," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "It's a good win if you're an Auburn fan. We took a step into the pond with the win over Tennessee. We dove in tonight."
Tolbert made 6-of-7 shots, the only miss an errant 3-pointer in the final two minutes.
They played some defense, too. Alabama managed just 21 points and shot just 32 percent after halftime.
The Tide's road struggles continued. Alabama has lost its first three SEC road games by an average of 24 points to unranked teams. Western Division teams are now 0-15 in SEC road games.
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried was left wondering what went wrong after his team had "kind of a meltdown" in the second half.
"We've just got to find some answers," Gottfried said. "We've got to go back and work hard. We've got to do a lot of things to get ourselves back where we need to be. I don't think right now we're playing nearly the way we can play."
It was the largest victory margin of any unranked Auburn team against a ranked foe. The Tigers surpassed their win total of last season.
"We finally did it," said Tolbert, rating the Tennessee win No. 2 and Alabama No. 1 among his biggest wins at Auburn.
"We've just been working so hard. We just worked so hard and it's finally starting to show and pay off."
Even the Tide's top performers had problems.
Ronald Steele led Alabama with 19 points, but he also had five turnovers. Jermareo Davidson added 18 points and 11 rebounds, managing only two points after halftime.
Alonzo Gee had 11 points. Richard Hendrix played much of the game in foul trouble and finished with just four points - 10 below season average - in 19 minutes.
Steele made 5-of-9 3-pointers. The rest of the team was 0-for-10, unable to counter Auburn's aggressive, trapping defense.
"Our quickness and our aggressiveness was the difference in this game," Lebo said. "We wanted to push the ball and get their subs in the game. Make Hendrix and Davidson run. To do that you've got to get some stops."
The Tigers churned out a stream of breakaway dunks and fast-break scores, swiping 12 steals and dishing out assists on 22 of 34 baskets. Quantez Robertson led Auburn 10 assists.
"We didn't defend well at all" in the second half, Gottfried said.
By the end, Auburn fans weren't content with rare hoops dominance in the rivalry. They chanted "We want Saban," a reference to new Tide football coach Nick Saban.
The Tide cut the lead to 43-39 on Steele's 3-pointer with 16:43 left, but it was the only rally Gottfried's team managed. Rasheem Barrett's 3-pointer capped a 17-4 run that started the rout, making it 62-45 midway through the half.
Alabama never came closer than 11 points after that.
Appropriately, Barrett ended the scoring with a breakaway dunk with 39 seconds left to punctuate the win.
"A lot of people doubted us, (saying) that we couldn't beat Alabama," Dollard said. "They thought the Tennessee game was a fluke.
"They're a good team and they came in and played hard, but we did what we had to do."