TUSCALOOSA — Never has a basketball team felt better about itself on the offensive end of the floor after scoring 61 points and shooting 39.3 percent from the floor in a winning effort.
Drawing the regular-season series with rival Auburn to an even draw at one after losing on the road Feb. 6 was enough, but it was more satisfying to know that a groove is in place after the 61-43 win over Auburn.
“I thought the improvement we made over the last 20 days showed because we didn’t let (early offensive struggles) rattle us,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We had some success and built a lead.”
A large part of the offensive renaissance is junior point guard Trevor Releford, who followed his 36-point explosion Saturday against LSU with a 21-point game on 7-for-13 shooting against the Tigers.
“I think I’ve been preparing better recently,” Releford said. “I’ve been more focused and when I’m focused, I have a lot of confidence in my shot.”
Grant added, “I thought Trevor did a great job. He was locked-in. He was energetic, and I thought that was contagious to our team.”
Fellow point guard, redshirt freshman Retin Obasohan, created opportunities for himself via the dribble-drive to the tune of 10 points. Obasohan also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal. Trevor Lacey had a dozen points for the Tide.
“That’s something I’ve been working on,” Obasohan said of his dribble penetration abilities. “Coach always gets after me to use my athleticism. I guess today was one of those days I was able to make some plays for my teammates.”
When they were not scoring, the guards found 11 of Alabama’s 13 assists setting up big men for offensive opportunities, paving the way for sophomore forward Nick Jacobs to put up 10 points on 5-7 shooting.
“I thought Nick Jacobs came in in the first half and gave us a big boost,” Grant said. “Alabama attributed the upgrade in offensive output to halftime adjustments. Alabama’s shooting percentage in the 20 minutes after the intermission was 14 percent better than the 20 minutes preceding it.
“I guess the message at halftime was we have to come out and hit first,” Releford said. “We just can’t let up, because we know we were going to come out and get their best shot. We just had to hit first.”
Grant added, “When we get good looks, trust your preparation, go play. Don’t be hesitant. I thought the guys did a great job of responding to that.”
The Tigers have done the exact opposite, losing rhythm going down the stretch. From Christmas Day to Jan. 16, the Tigers scored 75.8 points per game. Since then, Auburn has averaged 57.75 points per contest. Auburn’s 43 points was the fewest it has scored against Alabama since 1949.
“If you can put a finger on it, it would be easily fixed,” Auburn forward Rob Chubb said. “People aren’t creating how they should be. Aggressiveness on the offensive end is one of the reasons.”
Chubb led the Tigers in scoring with 13 points. Frankie Sullivan continued to slump for Auburn. He finished 1-of-9 shooting for six points.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee added, “Did you watch the game? Missing layups, missing open shots. We probably missed 20 layups tonight. How are you going to win a game when you miss 20 layups?”