Alabama +8 at Auburn O/U 152
Big loss for Auburn with rim protector Anfernee McLemore out for the season with an ankle injury. Already ultra-small, McLemore's (4th nationally in block pct.) allowed the Tigers' perimeter defenders to extend their pressure and take chances which is why the rank first in the SEC in forced turnover rate. "Resilience" has been a common theme of Auburn's remarkable season but this is a devastating loss.
"We lost arguably the guy who plays as big as anybody on the roster because he was such a great shot blocker," Pearl said. "So, we continue to have to play small ball, we continue to spread the floor, try to extend a little bit defensively."
Note that McLemore didn't have much of an impact in the first meeting. He played only 15 minutes, grabbed two rebounds, and failed to block a shot. Alabama shot 54% from 2-point range and won 76-71 despite Collin Sexton not playing. The Crimson Tide are square on the "bubble" and close to regular season with four tough games (at Auburn, vs. Arkansas, vs. Florida, at Texas A&M). Despite ranking first in the SEC in defensive efficiency, Alabama is only 8-6 in league play. Taking care of the basketball has been this team's biggest issue (19 turnovers in first meeting) and will likely determine the outcome of this evening's contest. Lot of angles to consider: rivalry, revenge, rally the troops after key injury. But in the end, the loss of such an impactful player should aid in Alabama sticking around in this one.