It’s not the Iron Bowl, but it still has that rivalry feel to it when Alabama travels to Auburn for the first matchup during basketball season.
Alabama has been far from consistent this season but has picked up some solid wins against Quadrant 1 opponents.
Auburn’s season has fallen short of expectations thus far but after a 34-point win against Missouri, the Tigers are looking to keep the momentum going against their biggest rival.
Here are some players to watch and keys to victory for Auburn vs. Alabama.
Players to watch
John Petty (Alabama):
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Tevin Mack is likely going to be matched up with a solid defender in Chuma Okeke, who leads Auburn in steals and is third in blocks. The back-and-forth between the two will be something to keep an eye out for Saturday. When Petty is cold, he hurts Alabama’s chances tremendously.
Petty has been atrocious on the road over his two-year career at Alabama. On the road, Petty is shooting 26.8 percent from the field and 25.7 percent from 3. That is compared to 49.5 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from 3 when at home.
Petty took a step in the right direction that he can perform on the road when he dropped 30 against Tennessee, but his overall track record has shown he can’t be trusted on the road and it remains to be seen if this is just an apparition or something that could be a trend.
Auburn is another test for Petty to break the stigma that he can’t perform well on the road and if he can’t perform well, then it will be a long day for Alabama.
Donta Hall (Alabama):
Donta Hall’s team stats:
11.7 pts (3rd)
8.9 reb (1st)
2.1 blk (1st)
62.3 FG% (1st)
74.7 FT% (4th)
62 FTM (1st)
83 FTA (1st)
Hall is a do-it-all big man for the Tide. He is the anchor on defense and a focal point on offense with his ability to navigate the pick and roll and finish close at the rim, while also getting the free throw line the most on Alabama.
“Donta Hall is much improved,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “Keeps getting better and better every year. He’s probably as good as there is in our league at receiving the drive-draw-dish spoon feeds, offensive rebounding. They make you come off of him and try to block a shot and then he just catches everything. He’s got great hands and finishes everything.”
With Austin Wiley doubtful against Alabama, the attention turns to the matchup between Hall and Auburn’s bigs – Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer.
Tevin Mack (Alabama):
In today’s form of basketball, versatility is key, and Tevin Mack brings a whole lot of it to the table. Mack can bring the ball up, push the tempo in transition, score and defend inside, and step outside to shoot the 3-ball.
Mack ranks third on the team in 3-pointers attempted and total shots taken for the Tide, so that goes to show the Texas transfer is not afraid to let it fly no matter where he is on the court. That mentality led him to hitting six 3-pointers in Alabama’s upset win over Kentucky.
Mack is likely going to be matched up with a solid defender in Chuma Okeke, who leads Auburn in steals and is third in blocks. The back-and-forth between the two will be something to keep an eye out for Saturday.
Bryce Brown (Auburn):
Ever since getting over his shooting slump back in December, Bryce Brown has been the most consistent offensive player for Auburn. He has scored double figures in nine straight games – including a 28-point, 6 for 7 3-point performance against Kentucky.
In the last nine games, Brown is shooting 46.9 percent from 3-point land and averaging 18 points a game. Last season, Brown did not perform great against the length of Alabama’s defenders, shooting only 26.7 percent from 3 and averaging 13 points a game.
Alabama does a lot of switching on defense, that matched with the team’s length makes it difficult to get good looks shooting the ball.
“They do a lot of switching. Switching is a great way of taking away a lot of things that you like to do,” Pearl said. “There’s some things you can do to take advantage of their switching. Again, every team does it differently. Switching can bother you, and all their length can bother you, and all their length can bother you, but there are things that we can do.”
If Brown can find a way to get to his spots and continue to knock down the deep ball at an elite rate, Auburn will always be in the ball game.
Keys to victory
There are three keys the Tigers need to execute in order to win Saturday’s contest.
- Keep the fouling to a minimum. Auburn currently ranks a lousy No. 276 in personal fouls committed with 19.4 fouls per game. Alabama is fourth in the conference in free throws attempted, if the Auburn lets Alabama get to the free throw line often, this game could get out of hand quick.
- Don’t settle for bad shots. Alabama has length at all positions and players tend to get frustrated when there is a hand always in their face. Auburn needs be smart and selective in its halfcourt sets to avoid a loss at home.
- Come out firing out the gates. It is crucial Auburn does not fall behind in this game early. The Tigers did that in all their games during the three-game losing streak. If Auburn can hit Alabama in the mouth early, the atmosphere in The Jungle might be too much for Alabama to handle.
- Don’t allow Auburn’s shooters to get to their spots. They need to use their length and athleticism to crowd shooters or be able to close out quickly on an Auburn team that shot a season-high 41 3’s against Missouri.
- Dominate in the paint. Alabama has the advantage down low with Hall and they need to go him early and often. Hall can make baskets inside but is an expert at picking up fouls and getting opposing bigs in foul trouble.
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