CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

January 30, 2014

SEC BASKETBALL: Auburn halts SEC skid with 74-55 win over Alabama


Associated Press

AUBURN — Chris Denson, KT Harrell and the Auburn Tigers don’t have to talk about the streak any more.

Denson scored a career-high 32 points, Harrell added 23 and Auburn snapped a 16-game losing streak against Southeastern Conference teams with a 74-55 victory over Alabama on Thursday night.

The SEC’s top scoring duo took over in the second half to help the Tigers (9-9, 1-6 SEC) beat their first league opponent since topping Alabama (9-11, 3-4) nearly a year ago.

“They’ve stayed with it,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “The energy this week has been unbelievable. The effort’s been great. I’m proud of the guys and happy for them that they were able to finish one off and get the rewards of their hard work.”

The game had been postponed a night because of a winter storm that left icy roads and shut down both schools. It didn’t cool down Denson or Harrell.

Denson scored 26 points after halftime and Harrell added 12, plus a game-high 11 total rebounds.

“I had a shaky first half and I wasn’t being aggressive,” said Denson, who made 10 of 16 field-goal attempts and 11 of 14 free throws. “The coaches talked to me. KT grabbed me individually and said, ‘I need you to come out this half.’

“That was one thing I was just forced to do, just attack, attack, attack and get to the free-throw line. I’ve been working on my free throws. That’s one thing I was challenging myself to do and I knocked them down.”

Denson and Harrell combined to match Alabama’s 55 points and collect for 18 rebounds.

“Those guys dominated the game, probably on both ends of the floor,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.

Trevor Releford led Alabama with 15 points, including 10 in the second half, despite foul trouble. He had played all but 6 seconds of the past two games combined but was limited to a more modest 31 minutes in this one.

No. 2 scorer Retin Obasohan came off the bench after missing two games with a hip injury and had nine points in 25 minutes.

Alabama has lost all eight games away from Coleman Coliseum.

“I thought Auburn’s energy right from the drop really was the difference in the game,” Grant said. “For 40 minutes they really played with a passion and an energy that we weren’t able to match.”

Auburn players rushed over to the student section to celebrate with fans after both beating their chief rival and ending the SEC skid.

“We can move on from it now. Not that we were really lingering on it, but we still had it in the back of our minds,” Allen Payne said. “Now we feel like we can get this thing rolling.

“It’ll be good to move on.”

Releford scored eight points in the first 10 minutes for the Tide to cut the deficit to 12 points. Denson responded with a short jumper, Harrell hit a fadeaway, and Alabama couldn’t come any closer the rest of the way.

Alabama made 19 of 53 shots (35.9 percent). The Tigers hit 14 of 22 (63.6 percent) from the field in the second half.

Payne hit a long jumper as time expired to give Auburn a 30-22 halftime lead. The Tigers had scored the game’s first 12 points before Releford hit a basket and free throw more than 5 minutes in.

“We don’t have any excuses,” Grant said. “I thought Auburn came out with energy from start to finish. We made some runs in the first half to cut it to a two-possession game. Just made some mental errors at the end.”

The Auburn football team received the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy at halftime for winning the Iron Bowl.

Coach Gus Malzahn told fans that “this trophy, it’s going to be around here awhile.”