Tide looks to continue SEC success in Auburn

The Alabama men’s basketball team will play its third road game in its last four contests when it travels to Auburn on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to battle the Auburn Tigers. This will be the first of two meetings between the in-state rivals this season.

The Crimson Tide (14-7, 6-2 SEC) has won six of its last seven games and is clinging to stay alive in the NCAA tournament hunt. On the other hand, Auburn (8-13, 2-6) is looking to scrape and claw to secure wins in its tough remaining schedule.

Head coach Anthony Grant said the Tigers are not a team to overlook.

“I think everybody that we play in the SEC is a very good team and Auburn is no different,” Grant said. “They’ve had some tough losses where it’s been a one-possession game that could have gone either way. They’re a very good basketball team.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for their team, how hard they play. They’re a very well-coached team. We expect it to be a great game.”

Auburn’s home arena is a new addition to campus and has proven to affect visiting teams with the crowd noise level during crucial points of the game. The arena was erected in 2010 and has a seating capacity of 9,121.

Sophomore guard Levi Randolph said he and his teammates are familiar with the new gymnasium and plan to handle it like any other gym.

“I remember playing there last year. The student section was really close,” Randolph said. “It was really loud, a great environment to play in, but we’ve played in a lot of environments like that. I think we’re prepared.”

The Tigers may be struggling, but they do have the upper hand on the Tide when it comes to player experience on the court. Auburn has five seniors on its roster, while Alabama only has Andrew Steele.

However, Steele still boosts the Tide’s morale when he’s on the floor. Alabama is 12-2 when its lone senior is active.

For the Tigers, senior guard Frankie Sullivan is averaging 16.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this year and has impressed Grant.

“[He’s a] very talented player, veteran guy,” Grant said. “He’s been around the league and seen it all. It’s been an outstanding year for him. He leads them in just about every offensive category, and he’s got great leadership qualities. He’s a very good player.”

Junior guard Trevor Releford leads the Tide and is ranked eighth in the Southeastern Conference with 15.3 points per game. He also leads the league in free-throw shooting with .857 percent (78-91).

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Alabama has been rolling since the New Year, but most of its games have been decided in the final minutes. Grant said it is not by design, but he is proud of his team’s resiliency to win.

“The thing that I’ve been pleased with is our guys have found a way to win,” Grant said. “I’m always going to be looking at errors that we can improve, things that we can do better, but the fight that we’ve shown has been good. We need to continue that and continue to try to get better and improve as we go through the season.”

The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.

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