Things could not have gone much better for the Crimson Tide on the road Tuesday night, facing in-state rival Auburn. Alabama out-shot and out-played the Tigers to walk away with a 68-50 win.
Just about everything went right for Alabama as it extended its winning streak to three games. Even the Tide’s dreaded 3-point shooting was effective. Alabama converted 6-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Sit back and watch
While Auburn was caught up in the emotion of a rivalry game, Alabama kept its cool. The Tigers were called for three technical fouls in the first half and Alabama's Trevor Releford gladly accepted the windfall, connecting on all six free throws. The second half wasn’t much different with Auburn playing recklessly, turning the ball over 19 times. The Tide didn’t get caught up in the drama of the night. Releford protected the basketball and the rest of the team avoided the mental miscues that started a previous four-game losing streak.
With Alabama's Tony Mitchell at home in Tuscaloosa due to suspension, a couple of players stepped up in his absence. Nick Jacobs, who started in Mitchell's place, didn’t come up with the game many expected but Charles Hankerson did. Hankerson hit three, 3-pointers and finished the game with 14 points. Carl Engstrom, who hadn’t played in several games, came off the bench to contribute good minutes in the first half. Engstrom entered the game with six points all season and left Auburn 2-for-3 from the floor with 4 points, two rebounds and a block.
Andrew Steele may not have jumped off the screen Tuesday at Auburn with just 2 points, but he was as big of a key to Alabama winning as anyone. The redshirt junior was a second point guard and had six assists while holding Auburn’s Varez Ward in check. Only JaMychal Green has as much experience with the Tide as Steele, and in a raucous environment on the road, it showed. Steele helped settle down the Tide early with the game on the line and emotions running high. And don’t discount the presence he’s had in the locker room since Mitchell’s suspension. When Alabama announced Mitchell was suspended, it was Steele who came out in public and calmed the waters, saying “We’re going to focus on Auburn. ... We have to trust coach (Grant's) judgment.”