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Tigers lose a close one at Alabama

TUSCALOOSA - Auburn went more than eight minutes without a point and missed seven of its first eight free throws, but still went into the final minute with a chance to pull an upset at Coleman Coliseum.

Trevor Lacey goes up against Auburn center Rob Chubb.

But, as has been the case over and over on the road this season, the Tigers couldn't get over the top. Alabama escaped with a 55-49 victory.

JaMychal Green’s tip-in after a big Auburn defensive stand gave Alabama a 51-47 lead with 37 seconds left. Kenny Gabriel then missed an open 3-pointer from the top of the key after an Auburn timeout, and the Tide sealed it with free throws from there.

Gabriel had 10 points, all in the second half, and 11 rebounds. Chris Denson, back from a one-game suspension, Noel Johnson and Frankie Sullivan each had 9 points for Auburn. Green finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Tide, which defeated Auburn 51-49 here last season.

“I thought we guarded fairly well,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “We just couldn’t score. That has kind of been the story for this year.”

Alabama outshot Auburn from the foul line 24-of-32 to 5-of-12.

Auburn (14-15, 4-11) jumped out to a 10-4 lead on a pair of 3-pointers from Noel Johnson. Alabama (20-9, 9-6), which answered with an 19-4 run, took its first lead of the game at 15-14 on a pair of free throws by Nick Jacobs at 8:16 followed by Rodney Cooper’s 3-pointer and a Jacobs foul shot to extend it to 23-14 with 3:13 left in the first.

Auburn finished its SEC road schedule 0-8..

Denson’s three-point play ended Auburn’s 8:14 scoreless drought to bring the Tigers to within 23-17. A 5-0 run by Denson closed it to within 23-19 with 1:41 to go. Sullivan’s driving layup made it 23-21 and then Gabriel missed a dunk just before the buzzer that would have tied it. The Tigers closed the half on a 7-0 run in the last two minutes after going over eight minutes without a point.

Gabriel’s bank shot to open the second half tied it at 23 and made it nine straight points for the Tigers. The Tigers then used a 9-1 run to take a 34-31 lead on a Denson floater with 14:16 to play. Willy Kouassi tied it at 43 on a stickback with six minutes left. The Tide then scored four-straight points and held the Tigers scoreless until a pair of Gabriel free throws with 1:53 to go. However, Auburn only trailed 47-45 after that.

Auburn’s defense held the Crimson Tide to only 31.1 percent shooting from the floor, 27.3 percent from 3-point range and had seven blocks. The Tigers shot 41.7 percent from the floor and 4-of-21 from behind the arc. Alabama outrebounded Auburn 39-31.

The Tigers played without five scholarship players, including Allen Payne, who had surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. Johnson played a season-high 27 minutes and Kouassi, who had four points, five rebounds and three blocks, played 17 minutes.

Trevor Lacey added 10 points for Alabama while going 2-of-3 from 3-point range.

Auburn returns home for its regular season finale against LSU on Saturday at 1 p.m. on Senior Day. The game will be televised by CBS.

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