No. 4 Auburn, No. 24 Alabama set for rare ranked matchup
The Tuesday night basketball game between Auburn and Alabama will have an Iron Bowl feel to it.
The fourth-ranked Tigers (14-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) will face the 24th-ranked Crimson Tide (11-4, 2-1) for the first time this season when the sides clash in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The matchup will be the first time in almost 35 years that the rivals have played each other as Associated Press Top 25 teams.
The last time that occurred was when No. 13 Alabama hosted and beat No. 17 Auburn 88-82 on Jan. 22, 1987.
No SEC team is hotter right now than coach Bruce Pearl's Tigers, who lost to then-No. 22 UConn 115-109 in double overtime in the opener of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Nov. 24.
It's been smooth sailing for Auburn ever since.
The Tigers have reeled off 11 straight victories -- nine of them by double figures -- and they sit atop the SEC standings. Texas A&M is the only other undefeated SEC team with a 2-0 mark.
Auburn took care of visiting Florida on Saturday, building a nine-point halftime lead and cruising to an 85-73 win behind 23 points from K.D. Johnson and a season-high 14 from Jaylin Williams.
They outrebounded the Gators 39-31 and shot 53.6 percent from the field to the visitors' 41.4 percent.
The Tigers held a 35-9 scoring advantage off the bench.
"I thought we were a little fatigued tonight," Pearl said. "I thought, for the first time, the grind of the season may have been a factor.
"Then obviously, you know, those guys -- Wendell (Green Jr.), K.D. and Jabari (Smith) -- rise up and make shots."
Added Johnson, a University of Georgia transfer: "My confidence was high the whole game."
Those three players mentioned by Pearl are the only Tigers who average in double digits -- Smith (15.5), Johnson (12.8) and Green (12.7).
Alabama has won two straight in the 98-year-old series and three of the past four meetings.
The Crimson Tide have won 10 of the past 12 games in Tuscaloosa, dating back to a 73-61 triumph on March 6, 2010.
After beating Florida 83-70 last Wednesday, Alabama ended the week by falling on the road against Missouri, 92-86.
Missouri went on a 22-5 run that turned a one-point game into an 18-point advantage, and the hosts held on to win.
The loss sent Alabama sliding down the AP poll, barely staying inside the Top 25 after falling nine spots.
Defense was the downfall for Alabama, and Missouri outrebounded the Crimson Tide 43-31.
"It might have been our worst defensive performance of the season," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "They played harder than us today. The effort was different between the two teams today (and) it cost us the game.
"We've got to look ourselves in the eyes and play better than we did tonight."
Alabama owns a 17-game home winning streak that began on Dec. 22, 2020, with an 85-69 win over East Tennessee State.
The streak is the program's longest since a school-record 24-game run from March 2010 to December 2011.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 11, 2022