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Feb 6, 2024 2:56 am

No. 12 Auburn, No. 16 Alabama tangle in key SEC matchup

Auburn tigers

Two of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference will square off for the second time in as many weeks when No. 16 Alabama visits No. 12 Auburn on Wednesday night in Auburn, Ala.

Alabama (16-6, 8-1) sits atop the SEC standings by one game over both Auburn (18-4, 7-2) and No. 15 South Carolina (19-3, 7-2). Nine games remain on the regular-season schedule.

The Crimson Tide have won four games in a row and 10 of their past 11 contests. They are coming off a dominant 99-67 win at home against Mississippi State on Saturday.

Mark Sears led Alabama with 21 points in the win. He shot 6-for-10 overall and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Aaron Estrada added 15 points and eight rebounds.

Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said he was impressed by his team on both offense and defense.

“We have been asking our guys to put both sides of the ball together for all two halves all season, and that’s been the closest we’ve come (to doing it),” Oats said. “… I thought for playing a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar team like Mississippi State, we did great.

“We’re getting our guys to play a little bit more aggressive, harder, and more assertive on defense. Overall, this is a really compliant group, so when we make points that we need to improve on, they have done a pretty good job of building on it.”

Alabama now will go up against an Auburn squad that is eager to avenge a 79-75 loss on the Crimson Tide’s home court on Jan. 24. The Tigers have won two of three games since then, including a 91-77 victory at Ole Miss on Saturday.

Auburn was ranked No. 8 when it met Alabama the first time but fell behind 44-30 at the half against its in-state rival. The Tigers outscored Alabama 45-35 in the second half but came up four points short.

Sears scored 22 points and dished out eight assists to lead Alabama in the win. Rylan Griffen contributed 17 points off the bench while shooting 5-for-10 from 3-point range, and Grant Nelson and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. tallied 14 points apiece.

Johni Broome led Auburn with 25 points in the first matchup. Chad Baker-Mazara finished with 11 points off the bench and Jaylin Williams led the team with 11 rebounds.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said he was pleased with his team’s performance since the first meeting with Alabama. Pearl pointed to the fact that six players scored in double digits in the team’s most recent victory over Ole Miss.

“I think it’s the key to our season,” Pearl said as he spoke about the well-rounded attack. “I think as much as anything, they are beginning to have confidence in each other now. …

“We took a step (on Saturday against Ole Miss). Now we’ll see if we’ve got to take another step on Wednesday when we play the first-place team. We’ll be playing for first place on Wednesday in February.”

Auburn will try to stay undefeated at home, where it is 11-0 this season. Alabama is 3-2 on the road.

–Field Level Media

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