Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama knocks off No. 8 Auburn in Iron Bowl of Basketball

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama forward Grant Nelson (#2) makes a backwards dunk over an Auburn player.

On a Wednesday night plagued by heavy rainfall in Tuscaloosa, the state of Alabama showed up, as it always does, for Alabama vs. Auburn. 

Alabama men’s basketball claimed the victory in the first of two matchups between the in-state rivals this season, defeating the No. 8 Tigers 79-75.  

It was the largest crowd Coleman Coliseum has seen all season, as around 15,000 fans filled the crimson seats of the arena. Most of these fans donned crimson and white, but many of the seats were occupied by those wearing blue and orange. Even on the hardwood, this rivalry brings out the tribal energy in Alabamians. 

The entire arena was on its feet, screaming “Roll Tide” and “War Eagle” as the ball was tipped in Auburn’s favor. But as Auburn came down the court and knocked down a 3-pointer to begin the game, something wasn’t quite right. 

The red lights used for the starting lineup introductions were still glowing over one side of the court, which caused a stoppage of play just 28 seconds into the Iron Bowl of Basketball. After an almost 15-minute delay, Alabama inbounded the ball to resume play.  

After the delay, the Crimson Tide struggled to find its footing, allowing a 12-4 Auburn run. Auburn forward Johni Broome came out of the gates hot, scoring 8 of the first 12 points for the Tigers. He finished with 25 points along with 14 rebounds and five blocks.  

Alabama bounced back with a run of its own, however. As rain fell outside of Coleman, guards Rylan Griffen and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. created a rainstorm of their own, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers to take a 1-point lead over the Tigers. Griffen scored 14 of his 17 points in the half.  

Alabama ended the first half on a 17-4 run as Auburn made only one field goal in the final five minutes of the half.  

It was a scrappy half, as both teams fed off the energy of the crowd. Many words were exchanged, and many bodies hit the floor. Toward the end of the half, it appeared several Auburn players even had trouble hearing the whistle for their own timeout over the deafening roar of the home crowd.  

“The crowd was unbelievable,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said postgame. “We needed the crowd tonight and they showed up in a big way.”  

After a gritty and emotionally charged first half, Alabama held a commanding 44-30 lead over Auburn heading into the break.  

The Tigers came out of the locker room looking to reclaim the lead, going on a 6-0 run to cut the Alabama lead to just 5.  

Despite the early momentum from Auburn, much of the second half was a back-and-forth slugfest between the two bitter rivals. Anytime Auburn made a push for the lead, the Crimson Tide would find a way to keep the Tigers at bay.  

Up until the second half, it had been a rough outing for forward Grant Nelson. The North Dakota State transfer recorded just 2 points on 1-5 shooting in the first half.  

When the second half began, Nelson looked to be playing with a fire that was unseen until this point. He ignited Coleman Coliseum with a reverse slam after getting fouled, which seemed to also spark his own play for the rest of the half.  

Nelson finished with his first double-double of the season, scoring 12 of his 14 points and grabbing eight of his 11 rebounds in the second half.

“My confidence wasn’t all there,” Nelson said. “Rylan talked to me on the bench. He challenged me and I took that and ran with it.”  

Even with Nelson’s stellar play in the half, Auburn wasn’t going away.  

The Tigers continued to slowly but surely chip away at the deficit, eventually reclaiming the lead from the Crimson Tide with around nine minutes left to play.  

This was the last lead the Tigers had, despite some very close calls. Auburn tied the game a couple of times and moved within 1 or 2 points on several occasions but was unable to regain the lead within the final minutes.  

After a missed layup from guard Mark Sears, the Tigers moved the ball downcourt with 20 seconds remaining, trailing 72-75. As Tigers guard Chad Baker-Mazara went up for the game-tying 3-pointer, he was fouled, and the arena filled with groans from those wearing crimson.  

As Coleman Coliseum rose to its feet and let out its most distracting screams, Baker-Mazara approached the free-throw line with Iron Bowl bragging rights and a top 10 ranking on the line for the Tigers.  

First shot, bottom. 

Second shot, nothing but net.  

Third shot, off the front of the rim, off the backboard, into the hands of Nelson, who hit both free throws after being immediately fouled, increasing the Crimson Tide lead back to 3. 

After a series of fouls from both teams, Sears put the game on ice from the line, adding to his 22-point total for the evening, a team-high for the Crimson Tide.  

“They didn’t go away,” Oats said. “That is a tough team that is going to compete. It was a big win and we needed it, but we got to get better at a lot of things here.”  

Alabama will now gear up to take on another rival, the LSU Tigers, as they make the trip from Baton Rouge to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide on Saturday night. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN.  

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