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No. 4 Auburn Buries Alabama


After receiving the trophy for its Southeastern Conference title, No. 4 Auburn went out and played like a champion Friday.

The Tigers, showing they won't be content with their regular-season SEC title, routed Alabama 93-61 in the quarterfinals of the league tournament.

Chris Porter scored 22 points and Auburn dominated its state rival with hands-in-your-face defense and high-flying work on the boards.

"I think they've got a great chance here and in the NCAA Tournament," Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. "They have all the ingredients."

Even on a day when they were mediocre shooters (41 percent), Auburn was simply awesome.

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  • The Tigers (27-2) controlled the offensive boards 20-9, leading to 25 second-chance points. Also, they forced 25 turnovers while committing only nine themselves, leading to a 37-7 advantage on points after turnovers.

    Many of those points came on free throws. Auburn made 27 of 29 from the line -- including all 17 attempts in the second half.

    Porter and four teammates were in double figures, and 10 players in all scored for the Tigers.

    Alabama (17-14), after playing the day before in the first round, simply didn't have enough depth to keep up with Auburn, which had to deal with a broken-down bus on its way to Atlanta but drew a bye Thursday.

    "Our goal was to try to wear them down with our pressure," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "I think they kind of ran out of gas in the second half."

    The Tigers, who won the second SEC regular-season title in school history with a 14-2 mark, picked up their trophy before the game, receiving a standing ovation from the large Auburn contingent at the Georgia Dome.

    But the players quickly forgot about the ceremony and got busy working on the next step -- winning the SEC Tournament for the first time i 14 years.

    "We don't get caught up in a lot of things," Ellis said. "The regular season is over. I'm glad we got to share it with the Auburn family. That kind of pumped us up. But once we got to the locker room, we put (the award) away and didn't even think about it."

    Besides, if they keep playing like they did Friday, Auburn will have to clear another space in the trophy case by Sunday.

    The Tigers, who trailed in the opening minutes and led only 42-37 at the half, blew it open with a 30-6 run after Chris Rollins hit a 3-pointer to pull Alabama within 51-44 with 13:38 remaining.

    Porter, the SEC's player of the year, got it started by coming up with a steal that led to a dunk by Bryant Smith. The next time down the court, Porter scrambled for an offensive rebound off a missed shot, stepped outside the arc and sank a 3-pointer.

    Daymeon Fishback finished off the run with a four-point play. He made a 3-pointer despite being fouled by Jeremy Hays, and added the free throw to make it 81-50 with 4:05 to go.

    Both Fishback and Smith scored 15 points, while Mamadou N'Diaye and Doc Robinson had 11 each.

    "They have a deep bench," Hays said. "They keep throwing fresh bodies in. That wears a team out. That's one of their strengths."

    Brian Williams led Alabama with 21 points, but Hays was his only teammate in double figures with 10.

    Auburn beat Alabama three times in a season for the first time since 1960, and it was hardly a fluke. The average margin: 29 points.

    On Saturday, the Tigers will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time since 1991, meeting the winner of the Kentucky-Mississippi quarterfinal game played later Friday.

    "That game is going to be like a Sweet 16 game," Ellis said. "It should be good preparation, whether it's Kentucky or Ole Miss. As far as I'm concerned, these games are preparing us for the NCAA Tournament games."

    Auburn, whose only other SEC regular-season crown came in 1960, won its lone league tournament in 1985 with an improbable four-victory performance. This time, three victories would do -- and likely secure a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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