GAME NOTES: The Auburn Tigers hope to put and end to their longest losing streak of the season, as they entertain SEC and intrastate rival Alabama on Wednesday night.
Alabama has been one of the hottest teams in the SEC of late, winning six of its last seven games to improve to 14-7 on the campaign. The Crimson Tide are fresh off back-to-back wins over Arkansas (59-56) and Vanderbilt (58-54) to move to 6-2 in conference.
2013 started off in promising fashion for Auburn, as the team posted three straight wins, but since then it has plummeted in the SEC standings by dropping six in a row. The Tigers' most recent setback was at nationally- ranked Missouri, 91-77, to fall to just 8-13 this season, including 2-6 in league play.
Alabama has won five straight games against its bitter rival to take an 89-56 lead in the all-time series.
The Tide captured their first win at Vanderbilt in over 20 years last Saturday by overcoming an eight-point deficit with an 18-6 run to close out the game. They shot a lowly 38 percent from the field, but kept the turnovers to a minimum (nine) while forcing 17 miscues from Vandy. Trevor Lacey paced the squad with 17 points, Andrew Steele added 13 off the bench, and Rodney Cooper tallied 11 points and seven rebounds in the triumph.
Scoring points has been an issue for Alabama this season, as it ranks in the bottom half of the SEC with 63.9 ppg, but it has won twice as many games as it has lost thanks to an outstanding scoring defense (58.3 ppg), which ranks second to only Florida in the conference. Despite the team's relative struggles at the offensive end, Trevor Releford has had a stellar season, scoring 15.3 ppg with outstanding percentages from the field overall (.482), 3-point range (.441), and the foul line (.857). Lacey adds 12.4 ppg and 3.5 apg, while Cooper nets 10.7 ppg. Lacey and Releford are also disruptive in the passing lanes with a combined 70 steals.
Auburn had its worst defensive effort of the season against Missouri over the weekend, allowing a season-high 91 points on 54.5 percent field goal efficiency. The Tigers struggled from the field (19-of-53), and they only managed to keep the game within striking distance thanks to an outstanding 32- of-36 showing from the foul line. All 11 players who took the court scored in the setback, led by 12 points from Frankie Sullivan and 10 each from Rob Chubb and Chris Denson.
In scoring 67.6 ppg and yielding 67.8 ppg, Auburn is one of only four SEC teams sporting a negative scoring margin, and its .416 field goal percentage ranks above only Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in the conference. Sullivan is the league's fourth-leading scorer (16.5 ppg), but he shoots just 39 percent from the field and hasn't topped 14 points in any of the past five games. Denson scores 11.7 ppg but the team is only 3-7 in games in which he has appeared. Chubb brings a stable force to the frontcourt with 9.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg and nearly a block per contest.
These two teams are trending in opposite directions, and even though Auburn has the home court advantage, that won't be enough to overcome its struggles of late and take down a surging Alabama squad.
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