January 30, 2014
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- The students chanted "just -- like -- football." But, really, it was easier.
Auburn found the perfect time to win its first SEC game of the basketball season Thursday night, trouncing Alabama 74-55 in Auburn Arena. The football team was presented the ODK Sportsmanship Trophy at the half, the symbolic award for winning the Iron Bowl with that memorable 34-28 victory in Jordan-Hare Stadium in November.
The basketball game didn't come down to the final second, not like when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for the football win. Thursday night, Auburn jumped out early and coasted in.
Chris Denson had a career-high 32 points and KT Harrell added 23. They combined for 55 points and 18 rebounds.
"Those guys dominated the game on both ends of the floor," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant.
Denson scored six points in the first half and poured it on in the second.
"I had a shaky first half and I wasn't being aggressive," Denson said. "The coaches talked to me and KT Harrell grabbed me individually and told me, 'you need to come up this half,' and that's what I did: attack, attack, attack."
Auburn improved to 9-9 overall and 1-6 in the SEC. Alabama fell to 9-11 overall and 3-4 in the league. Auburn's last two SEC victories have come against the Tide.
"We have to stay the course, not worry about records," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. "Just keep getting better and everything will take care of itself."
Auburn led 12-0 on the way to a 30-22 halftime lead.
"I thought Auburn's energy right from the jump was the difference in the game," Grant said. "I thought they played with passion for 40 minutes."
Barbee said his team didn't lose its way, even through the tough times.
"Every single game, every single practice we have gotten better and if we will keep working that way the breakthrough will happen," he said.
Auburn freshman point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen's assignment was to play Alabama's top scorer, Tevor Releford, straight up. Releford scored 15.
Auburn will look to stay hot against Georgia at 12:47 p.m. Saturday in Auburn Arena.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine