No. 4 Auburn's Undefeated Season Ends in Upset vs. Unranked Alabama

Blake SchusterContributor IIJanuary 16, 2020

Alabama forward Alex Reese (3) and Auburn center Austin Wiley (50) chase a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

No. 4 Auburn's dazzling start to the season came to a shocking end Wednesday, as it fell 82-65 to an unranked Alabama team.

That leaves San Diego State as the lone undefeated team remaining in the country. 

Auburn (15-1, 3-1 SEC) finally losing this season isn't as surprising as who it lost to. Alabama (9-7, 2-2 SEC) had dropped two of its last four games before its rival came to town. To expect a team that was previously defeated by Penn, Rhode Island and Iowa State to keep up with the No. 4 team in the country was a tall order. The Crimson Tide were 1.5-point underdogs at home. 

None of that mattered. Alabama came out and caught Auburn off-guard, taking a 36-27 lead into halftime and running away with the game in the second half.

Alabama sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. led the way with 25 points, three rebounds and three assists.

It helped the Tide that the Tigers struggled to hold onto the ball. Auburn finished the night with 21 turnovers, which made it difficult for the undefeated team to stay in an offensive rhythm. 

Alabama's victory was one of a handful of upsets Wednesday night, as No. 18 Seton Hall knocked off No. 5 Butler on the road and No. 10 Kentucky fell to unranked South Carolina. Those results came one day after unranked Clemson defeated No. 3 Duke.

Charlie Potter @Charlie_Potter

Nate Oats: "We've been needing a signature win. Obviously, we were close a couple times." He said if #Alabama wants to play in the NCAA Tournament, they've got to put together wins like this.

Auburn was expected to be tested in January and beyond after not having much of a challenge leading into conference play. The Tigers spent their first few months tuning up against the likes of Georgia Southern, South Alabama, CSU Northridge and Lehigh. 

After running through the non-conference schedule without incident, Auburn opened up SEC play with victories over Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Georgia. That led to a Wednesday evening in Tuscaloosa where it all went wrong. 

Head coach Bruce Pearl's team had its worst-shooting night of the season (31.7 percent, 25 percent from three), while Alabama continually capitalized on Auburn's mistakes. The Tigers' leading scorer, senior Samir Doughty (15.7 points per game), mustered only six points on 2-of-11 shooting. Alabama, meanwhile, had four players score in double digits, including 11 points from senior guard James Bolden off the bench.

Back at SEC Media Day, Auburn guard Anfernee McLemore told reporters he loves seeing the look of disappointment on the faces of Tide fans when the Tigers win. Those words came back to haunt him.

Josh Vitale @JoshVitale

Anfernee McLemore's favorite place to play in the SEC outside of Auburn Arena? At Alabama in Tuscaloosa. "I like the look of disappointment on their faces when we win."

Charlie Potter @Charlie_Potter

Nate Oats said Anfernee McLemore's comments from the preseason were on a screen and were the last thing the players saw as they left the locker room. "It's nice he gave us that."

Alabama Men’s Basketball @AlabamaMBB

You should've seen the looks on our fans faces... ... WHEN WE WON. Undefeated no more 👋 #RollTide https://t.co/qNWEirX1vS

After the game, Pearl apologized to Auburn fans who made the trip to Tuscaloosa for how poorly his team played, according to Rivals' Nathan King.

Things won't get much easier for Auburn from here. It travels to Florida next to kick off a three-game stretch against the Gators, South Carolina Gamecocks and Iowa State Cyclones (as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge). In a conference where the first-place team (LSU) and last-place team (Vanderbilt) are separated by only 3.5 games in the standings, there is little room for error. 

Fortunately, Auburn has a chance for revenge coming soon, as the Crimson Tide visit the Tigers on February 12 at Auburn Arena. What was already expected to be a tense game will be kicked up a notch as the Tigers look to avenge their first loss of the season.


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