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Tide holds on to beat allabrn on the road
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AUBURN | Ugly never looked so pretty to Mark Gottfried.

Gottfried’s Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team struggled on offense and had to survive a scary endgame but managed to hold on for a 60-55 victory at Auburn on Wednesday night.

“It’s good to win on the road when you feel like you didn’t play very well," Gottfried said. “Our defense gave us a chance, but I never felt like our offense got into a flow. We stunk it up offensively, but it’s a road win, and we’ll take it."

Alabama had a 44-29 lead with 11:58 remaining and still had a comfortable 11-point margin with 4:50 to go. But at that point, Gottfried said, the Tide got “too tentative, way too conservative."

As a result of that, combined with the absence of point guard Ron Steele, who was sidelined by foul trouble for most of the final 10 minutes, the Tide’s lead dwindled away. Auburn went on a 10-0 run, capped by back-to-back steals that led to dunks by Nathan Watson and Quinnel Brown. Brown’s basket cut the UA lead to 53-52 with 2:19, but the Tigers could get no closer.

First, Chuck Davis hit a pair of free throws with 1:38 remaining to put the Tide up by three points. Then, after Kennedy Winston blocked a 3-point attempt by Auburn’s Ian Young, Davis made the Tide’s only basket in the final nine minutes, an off-balance jumper in the lane that caromed hard off the backboard and straight through the goal.

“That’s the basketball version of the Hail Mary," Gottfried joked.

“I thought I got fouled, but I was just glad I made the lucky shot," Davis added.

Ugly or not, the hoop gave Alabama a five-point lead, 57-52. Nathan Watson made one free throw with 36 seconds remaining to bring Auburn within four points, and the Tide’s Albert Weber missed a pair of foul shots with 26 seconds to go to give Auburn a last lease on life. But the Tigers had a tough time finding a shot against the Crimson Tide defense, with Toney Douglas missing a 12-footer that Winston rebounded with 5.6 seconds to go. He made two free throws and Shelton added another as the Tide held on.

“After they had cut it to one, we told our guys not to panic, that the game was still going to come down to making some free throws and some stops on defense," Gottfried said.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes and maintained a lead through the entire first half. UA’s margin swelled to as many 13 points, 29-16, on Ron Steele’s 3-pointer with 6:30 to play.

Alabama wasn’t able to build on the lead, though, scoring just one basket in the final six minutes of the half. Auburn scored just six points in the same span, but was able to trim the Tide’s lead to 31-22 at the break.

The 22-point output was the lowest-scoring half of the year for Auburn.

“We got out early, but I thought we took our foot off the accelerator after that," Gottfried said.

Still, the Tide maintained a double-digit lead for much of the second half, although the absence of Steele – who sat for over seven minutes after picking up his fourth foul with over 10 minutes to play – disrupted the UA offense.

“We showed tonight that we may depend too much on Ron Steele, but maybe it’s a good thing we had to face it because we haven’t had to do it before," Gottfried said. “First, we put Jean Felix in and tried Kennedy at guard, but I thought that took us completely out of our rhythm. So we put Albert (Weber) in, and he did some good things. But our team knows how much Ron means to us."

Despite his concerns about the offense, Gottfried did have praise for the Tide defense. Alabama held Auburn to just 36 percent shooting, including only 23.5 percent (4-for-17) from the 3-point line.

Earnest Shelton led all scorers with 22 points. Winston added 16 points for the Tide and Davis had 10. Jermareo Davidson scored six points but grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.

Watson led Auburn (9-9, 0-5 SEC) with 13 points.

“Our kids played their hardest tonight," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. “We played a Top 25 team and just didn’t have enough at the end to finish it off.

“I told them if they would just keep playing like that, we would start pulling them out."

The victory upped Alabama’s overall record to 16-3, and allowed UA to maintain its lead in the SEC West with a 5-1 league mark.

Alabama will return home Saturday, hosting Georgia at Coleman Coliseum.
01-27-2005 09:29 PM
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