ST. LOUIS, Mo. – After trailing by 10 at the half, the Alabama men’s basketball team exploded in the second half, using a 50-22 performance to knock off No. 1-seed and No. 15-ranked Auburn, 81-63, on Friday afternoon in the 2018 SEC Tournament Quarterfinals round in the Scottrade Center.
With the win, Alabama reaches the SEC semifinals for a second consecutive year and captured its sixth win over an Associated Press Top-25 team this season (6-2).
After a very disappointing game on the road at their place, it was very disheartening how we finished that game,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “And then for us to be involved in a five-game losing streak and weather all of that adversity and be where we are right now speaks to the character and the core of our team. So I just want to take my hats off to our team, their intestinal fortitude, the character of the team, and they were playing against a really good team today that obviously won a lot of games in our league and has had a nice year. But this is about Alabama, and we humbly understand that we played a very good basketball game in the second half today and showed what we're made of and our potential.”
Freshman Collin Sexton remained red-hot during play in this year’s SEC Tournament, dropping his third 30-point game of the season, scoring 31 points, and set the Alabama freshman scoring record in the process. The Mableton, Ga., native surpassed former great James “Hollywood” Robinson’s rookie scoring record of 554 points set in the 1990-91 season. Sexton currently has 569 points this season.
Sexton also surged into Alabama’s tournament record books, as his 31-point performance ranks third all-time in points scored in a conference tournament game, while his two-game total of 58 points currently ranks fourth all-time in total points scored at an SEC tournament.
Sophomore Dazon Ingram and junior Donta Hall also reached double figures, as Ingram collected 14 points and seven rebounds, while Hall added 11 points and six rebounds for the Tide before exiting the game late after with an injury after taking a nasty spill on the court. Sophomore Braxton Key pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds to go along with nine points in the victory.
“This is no magic formula,” Johnson said. “I have two outstanding guards. They're outstanding. They play with a lot of heart. They breed a lot of confidence into our team. And even in the first half today, when we didn't play our best basketball, they'll tell you, I didn't raise my voice. I used understandable English, no bad words, and we just talked about how we needed to improve in the second half, and they did it.”
Alabama won the rebounding battle, 44-33, including 26-12 in the second half, and had 36 points in the paint compared to 22 by the Tigers.
The Crimson Tide turned in an enormous second half, outscoring the Tigers 50-22, shooting 56.0 percent from the floor to average 50 percent for the contest (26-of-52). On the defensive end, the Crimson Tide swarmed the Tigers, keeping Auburn from scoring a field goal for the first 10:12 of the second half, allowing the Tide to use a 20-1 run to begin the dominate second half.
In the first half, Alabama shot 44.4 percent from the floor (12-of-27) and controlled the paint, 20-12, in the first half, but Auburn’s 7-of-19 three-point shooting and 21-18 edge in rebounding gave the Tigers the 41-31 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Crimson Tide stormed out of the locker room scorching hot, erasing its 10-point deficit and capitalizing on a huge 20-1 burst, shooting 7-of-12 from the floor and 5-of-8 from deep to lead 51-42 at the 12:11 mark and never looked.
Three Tigers reached double figures as Heron led the charge with 18 points, while Murray and Brown contributed 15 points and 11 points respectively.
Up next, the Crimson Tide will face the winner of No. 4-seed Kentucky and No. 12-seed Georgia. The semifinal game will tipoff at noon CT on Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., and will be televised live on ESPN.