No. 17 Auburn looks to extend win streak to 15 (Jan 17, 2018)
The nation's longest win streak (14 games) will be put to perhaps its stiffest test yet as Auburn on Wednesday visits its most-unfriendly environs: Coleman Coliseum, on the campus of the University of Alabama.
The No. 17 Tigers are 16-1 after overcoming double-digit halftime deficits in wins over both Mississippi schools.
The win streak is the longest for Auburn, which has started SEC play 4-0, since 1999-2000.
"They're a hot team right now -- and not just in the SEC, they're the hottest team in the country," third-year Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said Tuesday, according to the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle. "But I think they can put up those '4-14' t-shirts that they've been wearing because now we know they're better than the 4-14 team (they were projected to be in the preseason). Maybe they can stop playing the underdog role now that they're ranked and they're the hottest team in our conference. We all know now they're not a 4-14 team."
While the Tigers are hoping to parlay their success into a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide (11-6, 3-2) likely need some key wins to burnish a resume that likely has Alabama on the bubble.
The Crimson Tide is No. 39 in the RPI (Auburn is seventh), with its best win coming Dec. 6 against Rhode Island.
Facing Auburn, which swept the season series a year ago, is a big opportunity for the Tide.
"No one on this team has beaten Auburn, and we know that they swept us last year, so I would love to beat them tomorrow," Key said, not counting injured Tide veterans Donta Hall and Riley Norris.
Added sophomore guard Dazon Ingram: "It means a lot -- it's the Iron Bowl of basketball. So, we just have to come in and be ready to play against a top-20 team in the country."
Alabama will have to do it without center Donta Hall, who is out with a wrist injury.
"When the surgery was completed, it was basically week to week," Johnson told AL.com. "So, I don't want to say 10 days or two weeks. We're just taking it week to week. But you never know. He's making progress so we'll see how he feels."
Hall, who leads the team in field-goal percentage (75) and blocks per game (2.4), was coming off a 13-point, three-block outing against South Carolina when he got hurt.
"We'll continue to progress him and see how the pain continues to subside," Johnson said, "and what kind of feeling and range of motion in his hand that he'll continue to get and hopefully we'll continue to improve."
For Auburn, the biggest question entering the game is, who will guard Collin Sexton, Alabama's fabulous freshman?
A committee, apparently.
"It'll be a lot of different guys, yeah," Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said, according to The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. "I don't think that one guy can cover him. The team has to cover him. We never make it about those individual matchups."
Auburn guard Bryce Brown is probably the Tigers' best perimeter defender and will see plenty of action against Sexton, who's second in the SEC in scoring at 19.3 points per game.
"(Sexton) is a lottery pick. That will be a big opportunity for me to step up on the defensive end as well as the offensive end trying to contain players like that cause he's a great player," Brown told AL.com. "It will be a great opportunity. I know there will be a couple guys on him as well."