Cooper’s tip-in lifts Alabama past Auburn, 57-55
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Rodney Cooper grabbed the rebound off of Levi Randolph’s jumper and laid it in with 5.8 seconds left to give Alabama a hotly contested 57-55 win over Auburn Saturday night in the 150th meeting between the two in-state rivals.
Randolph gave the Crimson Tide the lead three times in the final 2:13, including a 55-53 advantage with :44 left. K.T. Harrell hit a pair of free throws two seconds later to make it 55-55.
After an Alabama time out, Randolph took an open from the free throw line extended, but the errant shot bounced high off the iron and Cooper, looped around an Auburn block to knock down the game winner.
”Our assistant coaches tell me to crash the glass,” Cooper said. ”I just took the ball (and put it in).”
With 4.7 seconds left Tahj Shamsid-Deen quickly dribbled down the court but lost the ball without getting off a shot.
”We didn’t get the screen set (for Tahj),” Auburn coach Bill Pearl said. ”There was too much time between when Tahj got the ball and the screen. We didn’t get it done.”
K.T. Harrell was equally emphatic.
”We tried to set a ball screen for Tahj and get him a lay-up and we didn’t get it,” he said. ”We didn’t really box out and rebound and crash the boards. They started getting too many second-chance points and that’s how they got the lead.”
Randolph finished with 18 points to lead Alabama (13-6, 3-3 SEC).
”It was a heck of a win for us,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. ”We did a great job finishing the game. I thought our guys really rallied from (when Tarrant got ejected) that time forth. The next play Levi got a steal and went down and got a dunk and that energized the whole building. Our guys were able to make enough plays (to win the game). It was a real, gutty great win.”
Alabama held a 25-23 lead at the half, but Auburn took control on a jumper by Cinmeon Bowers with 17:37 left to play, sparking a 15-5 run to jump out to a 44-35 lead on a field goal and free throw by Antoine Mason.
The Crimson Tide cut the lead to 44-39 on four free throws by Ricky Tarrant, who picked up his second technical foul of the game with 8:11 left and was disqualified from the game.
Auburn hit both free throws for a47-39 lead, but the loss of Tarrant energized the Crimson Tide, who regained the lead, 51-50, on a put back and a free throw by Randolph.
Auburn led throughout by as many as five points in the low-scoring first half. The score was tied 21-21 when Alabama tallied four of the final six points of the half to take a 25-23 lead at intermission.
Coming off a last-second, 93-91 overtime setback at Arkansas, Alabama snapped a three-game SEC losing streak.
Auburn (10-9, 2-4) is winless in six road games this season. Harrell led Auburn with 22 points. Bowers added 14 points and eight rebounds and Mason added 13 points.
Crimson Tide: Coming into the game Alabama had won 7 of the last 9 games against Auburn, including five straight at home. . The Crimson Tide is 46-8 against the Tigers in Tuscaloosa and 39-7 in Coleman Coliseum. . Alabama coach Anthony Grant is 7-3 against Auburn and 5-0 at home. . the sold-out game was declared a ”white-out” with 10,000 white T-shirts given away.
Tigers: Bruce Pearl is in his first year coaching Auburn but is 5-3 all-time against the Crimson Tide and 2-1 in Tuscaloosa while coaching Tennessee with another win coming in the NCAA Tournament while coaching Wisconsin-Milwaukee. . Junior college transfer Cinmeon Bowers entered the game as the SEC’s leading rebounder and ranked No.5 in the nation with 11.6 rebounds a game. . Bowers has 12 double-doubles, tops in the SEC and fifth nationally.
Crimson Tide: Host Florida on Tuesday.
Tigers: Host Texas A&M on Tuesday.