Cam Newton cheered Auburn past Alabama in last season's basketball game in Auburn Arena (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Nothing says a spirited game like a visit by Alabama, and so it was last season that a special visitor with experience in beating the Tide showed up to cheer Auburn to a basketball victory.
Cam Newton, with a megaphone in hand, fired up the crowd and the players for a 49-37 victory.
"It was fun," says guard KT Harrell. "Cam was in the place that night and we had a lot of energy, the fans were bringing a lot of energy. I expect the same thing."
Alabama will play Alabama a year later on Thursday, following a one day delay because of wintry weather, and now will tip off following the 5 p.m. Auburn-Texas A&M women's game in Auburn Arena. This time, one of the main attractions is the presentation of the ODK Sportsman Trophy, which goes to the winner of the Iron Bowl of Football. You know who gets it this time. It's Auburn, thanks to that end-of-the-game, return-of-a-missed-field-for-a-touchdown play that beat the Tide 34-28 in Jordan-Hare Stadium in late November. Coach Gus Malzahn and football players are expected to be on hand to accept the trophy at halftime Wednesday.
The Auburn basketball team would like to capture some of that magic. Its last SEC win came against Alabama when Newton cheered the Tigers to victory, sort of like what he accomplished in leading Auburn to a comeback win over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2010.
Auburn is 8-9 overall and 0-6 in the SEC. Alabama is 9-10 overall and 3-3 in the league.
"We realize that we have lost a couple of games in a row and that's why we're out here working," Harrell said Tuesday. "We're trying to change that."
Auburn was close enough in its first five SEC games, but the Tigers had more trouble than usual in an 86-67 loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville on Saturday. Nothing says comeback, though, like a comeback against Alabama.
"We are not struggling with our confidence, it's just a matter of getting over the hump," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. "They are all tough no matter what order they come in, but obviously us having four of our first six on the road was challenging, probably the most challenging schedule in the conference. Our two home games were against Top 20 teams. We had our opportunities, obviously we are 0-6 at the end of the day, but we played much better than being 0-6 and this team knows that. We are focused on the process about getting better and it's clear we are getting better."
Auburn's game is scoring from Harrell, Chris Denson and now Tahj Shamsid-Deen, all guards, though Barbee is still looking for help from his inside players. Alabama is led by point guard Trevor Relaford.
"We will be game-planning around him," Harrell said. "He has the ball in his hands a lot. Sticking to our game plan defensively and trying to execute offensively. If we do those things we will win.
"He is an aggressive point guard. He plays the point guard spot, but he is not a traditional point guard that is always trying to find his teammates. He can but he is definitely being aggressive trying to score as well. You have to make sure to contain him and play our game defensively."
Auburn was the surprise winner with Newton on board last season. The Tigers scored only 13 first-half points. Alabama had 23.
Now, it's time to do it again.
"It's Alabama, every team in the country has a rival and obviously for us Alabama is the biggest one," Barbee said. "It's always good to get a win and for us a much-needed win if we can get it."
Cam Newton cheers on Auburn at the Alabama basketball game last season...
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: