By Charles Goldberg
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Auburn's largest margin of victory in an SEC game came against Alabama in January, but the road proved to be a fickle place in a rematch in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday.
Alabama beat Auburn 73-57 a month after losing to the Tigers 74-55 in Auburn Arena.
"Our energy wasn't where it need to be," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. "We knew there energy was going to be high. We talked about it.
"It was the reason why in Auburn we played the way we did: Because our energy was higher than theirs." But Saturday, Barbee said, "we couldn't catch up where their energy was."
Or Alabama's 10 3-pointers.
Auburn, with two regular-season games remaining, fell to 13-14 overall and 5-11 in the SEC. Alabama, winning for only the third time in 10 games, improved to 12-17 overall and 6-10 in the league. Both teams will then head to the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
Auburn fell behind early and had trouble staying close. Even SEC leading scorer Chris Denson was off. He played just 10 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, and so it was the player who came in averaging 20.4 points per game scored just six on 2-of-15 shooting from the field.
"CD has been playing well all year, and you're going to have rough games," said guard KT Harrell. "You aren't going to shoot the ball well every day as a team. But it's really about defense. We didn't go out there with the mentality to really guard or lock up.
"We had a lot of defensive breakdowns and they were able to step up and make shots."
Alabama shot a warmish 49 percent. Auburn was a cold 27.5 percent.
"You're not going to win a lot of games shooting 27 percent on the road," Barbee said.
Auburn out-rebounded Alabama 46-38, but Barbee called that nothing more than "fool's gold."
"You look at the stat sheet and you go, 'well you had 20 more shots on goal than them,'" Barbee said. "All that means is you missed a lot of shots and then you went and collected a lot of them and missed some more."
The Tigers buried themselves in the first half. Auburn went almost seven minutes without a basket during one stretch, had 10 points after 12 minutes, shot just 27.6 percent and trailed 36-21 at halftime.
Harrell led Auburn with 21 points after hitting 7-of-19 shots from the field.
Alabama led by as many as 19 in the second half before Auburn made a run to cut the score to 48-36 with just under 12 minutes to play.But when Alabama had nine 3-pointers, when there was 7:30 remaining, Auburn was down 62-41. The Tigers made another move in the final few minutes.
Levi Randolph led Alabama with 24 points. Trevor Releford scored 16.
Auburn will try to rebound against Tennessee at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Auburn Arena.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine