Observations: Auburn 99, Alabama 81
In a “must-win” rivalry game for their SEC title hopes, the Tigers overwhelmed the Tide behind one of the best frontcourts in the country.
C Johni Broome and PF Jaylin Williams (Grayson Belanger/Auburn Tigers)
It’s been a signature move for Johni Broome during his time at Auburn.
Broome will often get the ball on the inside, matched up 1-on-1 with a defender, and score over him. He’ll then flatten one of his hands, extend his elbow and push his palm toward the ground.
The taunt isn’t an audible one, but its implied two-word message speaks volumes:
Broome has done this for two seasons now, hitting opponents with it while running back down the floor. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a major SEC rival or a small school playing a paycheck game — Broome is going to be as consistent with it as he is with his impressive stat lines, night in and night out.
And, on Wednesday night, the taunt became rather symbolic of what was happening in the game as a whole.
Alabama was, quite literally, too little to hang with Auburn.
A smaller Crimson Tide lineup couldn’t hold off Broome and power forward Jaylin Williams, who combined to score 50 of Auburn’s 99 points by themselves.
Alabama head coach Nate Oats would later point out that his team’s effort level didn’t measure up to Auburn.
The Tigers won rebounding battle by seven boards and the paint battle by 14 points. They also blocked a dozen Crimson Tide shots and set a single-game program record for made free throws (40).
“We had the advantage on the inside, obviously, with Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said after the Tigers’ 99-81 win.
All of this came in what Broome called a “must-win game.” Get swept by Alabama for the second year in a row, and Auburn’s chances of contending for an SEC regular-season title are all but over.
“They were first in the SEC, and our goal is to win the SEC,” Broome said. “We had to get a separator. We had to get one, because a lot of people in the league ain’t going to beat Alabama.”
Now, with eight games left to play, Auburn is now in a three-way tie with Alabama and South Carolina for the league lead. Tennessee is a half-game back, having already had its off date in the SEC schedule.
Auburn got there with a total team effort. The Tigers put up a ridiculous 55 points in the first half on offense, using two massive runs to build and then reestablish a big advantage. They maintained a double-digit lead for all of a foul-filled second half, thanks to a stifling defense that didn’t let Alabama’s No. 1-ranked scoring offense get rolling again.
Everyone contributed for the Tigers, including all 11 men in the regular rotation down and the walk-ons who got to finish a comfortable rivalry rout in front of a phenomenal home crowd.
But the major difference-makers for Auburn were the 6-foot-10 Broome and the 6-foot-8 Williams, who combined to attack run-and-gun Alabama directly at what has been its Achilles heel this season — its frontcourt defense.
“We were on the bench, and I told (Broome) it felt like the Washington game, when we were going crazy together,” Williams said. “It felt really good, just being patient inside. That's our game, and we took advantage of it.”
The Washington game was last season, when Broome and Williams each scored 18 points to give Auburn a blowout win over a Pac-12 team that would later finish 16-16.
This game was even better: Both scored well over 20 points against a hated rival and SEC frontrunner that will likely remain in the top 10 in all the major computer rankings.
The stakes were practically as large as they can get for a regular-season game.
But, in such a big moment, Auburn proved that it wasn’t too little at all.
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 99-81 win over Alabama, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and Quote of the Night.
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Jaylin Williams got his revenge
The day before the game, Williams said he wanted to be able to tell his kids one day that he beat Alabama in his last season of college basketball.
Unless the Tigers face (and then lose to) the Crimson Tide in Nashville at the SEC Tournament, Williams will be always able to say he got the last word on Auburn’s biggest rival.