AUBURN — John Petty Jr.’s game-tying 3-pointer swished through the net with ease with 14 seconds remaining to even up a game that appeared over 4:18 into the contest Wednesday night.
But that would be the last of Alabama’s shooting barrage as No. 11 Auburn scored the first eight points of overtime and outscored the Crimson Tide 14-10 in the extra period to even the regular-season rivalry series with a 95-91 overtime victory inside a packed Auburn Arena.
In a game where the Crimson Tide never led and only tied it twice, the last time on Petty’s fifth of six 3-pointers of the night, Alabama’s comeback after falling behind 16-0 early included a school- and SEC-single-game record for both attempted and made 3s on a 22-of-59 effort from beyond the arch Wednesday night.
"To fight back from a 16-0 start to cut it to 3 at the half was big, and then the way we were down late in regulation and got it to overtime, Petty hit a huge shot — I thought a lot of guys hit big shots," first-year Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. "We’re right there and we’ve got to figure out how to win games, we have to figure out how to get stops when we need them, we have to figure out how to play a full 40 minutes. We’re capable of beating anybody in the league when we bring it for 40, but it didn’t quite happen (tonight)."
It wasn’t nearly enough against the 11th-ranked Tigers (22-2, 9-2 SEC), who made its first three field goals and 6-of-8 from the free throw line in the overtime period to pull out the harder-than-it-should’ve-been win.
Auburn had five players in double figures, including 19 points from freshman guard Isaac Okoro and 18 apiece from seniors Samir Doughty and center Austin Wiley, who also pulled down 17 of the Tigers' season-high 60 rebounds on the evening.
"The key for us was so many guys in double figures, and so much balance — we dominated the boards, and obviously dominated from two," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "It was a good win for us."
Meanwhile, Alabama freshman guard Jaden Shackelford led the way with 28 points on 9-of-23 shooting, including seven made 3s, while Petty added 20 points on 6-of-11 from 3-point range.
Alabama sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. became just the second player in Crimson Tide history to record a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, joining Roy Rogers who accomplished the feat twice in 1996. Not that he was interested in focusing on it much after the game.
“It doesn’t really matter too much when you lose,” Lewis said. “It’d feel better if we won, but we lost, so it’s a triple-double with a loss.”
Living and dying by the 3 isn’t always conducive to success, and Alabama found that out once again Wednesday night.
After struggling early, and falling behind by 16 in the game's opening 5 minutes, Alabama's shooting prowess from the outside was its lone saving grace.
But while it was a memorable night — the Crimson Tide made an SEC-record 22 3-pointers on another SEC-record 59 attempts, including 9-of-22 in the first half and 10-of-28 in the second half — a few of those missed tries could've gone a little differently.
"That's probably a few too many to be honest with you — not too many makes, I'll take as many makes as we can get, but the 59 attempts ...," Oats said. "We definitely want to play open, spread-out, shoot 3s. Making 22 is great, but to be honest with you, we shot 37-percent (from 3) ... we've got to do a little bit better job of getting ourselves to the free throw line. I think if you took nine of those 3s (attempted) off and get to the free throw line on five of those nine possessions, it's probably a little different game.”
Nevertheless, it was Alabama's second-half effort from beyond the arch that helped force overtime, outshooting Auburn 10-to-3 in made 3s — including a combined seven 3s from Shackelford and Petty — over the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Alabama's first five made field goals in the second half came by way of the 3-point shot as the Tide pulled within 57-56 on the fourth of Petty's 3-pointers with 14:06 remaining.
But over the next five minutes, Alabama managed to make just 1 of its next 6 3-point tries before back-to-back 3s from Shackelford to pull within 76-72 with 5:24 remaining in regulation. Lewis added a 3-pointer to cut it to 79-78 with 3:58 left.
From there, though, the Tide missed its next six straight 3s before Petty's game-tying trey with 14 seconds left in regulation as the Tide shot 4-of-12 from 3 over the last 5:56 of the second half.
"They did make 22 but they did miss 37, only had eight two-point baskets," Pearl said. "So we had the advantage on the inside and they had the advantage on the outside."
Less than two weeks removed from undergoing surgery to repair a fractured left wrist, Alabama junior wing Herb Jones returned to the court Wednesday inside Auburn Arena.
Sporting a heavy back cast that covered all but his fingers on his left hand, Jones stepped onto the floor following the game’s first media timeout and played a pair of defensive possession before returning to the bench.
Unable to do much with a still-sore left wrist, Jones played less than 3 ½ total minutes in the first half before entering and then quickly exiting after picking up his third foul with 12:48 left in the first half. He'd return though, and even recorded a one-handed block and rebound off a Samir Doughty missed jumper with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
"I just remember the block, I don't really remember anything else he did, but it was a great defensive play," Doughty said. "It was good defensive by him."
That was effectively Jones’ role in Wednesday’s rivalry game, a momentary defensive replacement that contributed in any way he could physically.
A one-handed Jones fouled out with 17.7 seconds left in overtime but still managed to pull down three key rebounds down the stretch in 7 minutes of action.
“That’s a warrior. To play with one hand, to do what he did in seven minutes, not many people in the world can do that, so my hat’s off to him," Lewis said of Jones. "We needed him, he made big-time plays, had big-time rebounds. They tried to Iso him to win the game going into overtime and they shot an air ball. That basically described him in one play — a true warrior and a great defender.”
It'll be interesting to see just how much more Jones plays Saturday at home against LSU, which would undoubtedly involve him matching up against good friend Trendon Watford. LSU was also the team he fractured his wrist against three weeks ago.
"It was more to get — the way (head trainer) Clarke (Holter) put it — to get some bullets in before we tried to put him in against LSU," Oats said. "We wanted to get him in when we knew we were going to defense and not play him any on offense, so you notice every single time (we put him in after) there was a whistle and we were going to defense with under a minute going into the media timeout."
Already undermanned from a bigs perspective, Alabama really had no answer for Auburn’s 6-foot-11 senior center Austin Wiley, especially during a first half when Wiley scored 9 of his 18 points and pulled down seven of his 17 rebounds.
Wiley was almost unstoppable on the backboards Wednesday, helping pace the Tigers to a season-high 60 rebound effort that included a 28-17 advantage in the first half and 7-2 in the overtime period.
"Austin Wiley was dominant," Pearl said.
But where Wiley did most of his damage was on the offensive boards, accounting for eight of the Tigers' 20-15 offensive rebounding advantage in the game.
"It was a huge point of emphasis going into this game — if Wiley's going to just demolish us on the O-boards, it's going to be hard for us to win the game," Oats said. "We gave him 17 rebounds, he had 8 O-boards. Yeah, we've got to do better."
Auburn actually held an 11-1 rebounding advantage as it mounted its 16-0 lead in the opening minutes, including six offensive boards — two from Wiley alone.
From there, though, Alabama held serve as the Tigers outrebounded the Tide 49-43 over the final 40-plus minutes of action.
"To be outrebounded by 16 is not a recipe for winning games, but I'll say, after that first 4-5 minutes of the game, we got outrebounded by six and we started out down 10," Oats said. "It's some of the same recurring things, transition defense, rebounding, fouling too much. The free throw discrepancy was huge — 39 (for Auburn) to 16, we've got to figure out a way to get to the line more."