AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - For the 163rd time, Auburn and Alabama will meet on the courts. The exciting in-state rivalry is set to tip off Saturday at 11 a.m.
The two split last season’s contests, both winning at home.
“We’re gonna have to play hard,” said Alabama head coach Nate Oats. “Last time we went into their gym, they were ready to go and we weren’t, and we were down 16-0 before you could blink your eyes. We can’t do that this game; we gotta come out ready to go on the defensive end. We gotta take care of the ball offensively, so it’s gonna be a good test for us.”
The Tide boasts a four-game winning streak and a perfect start to conference play heading into Auburn Arena; the best start in program history since the 1986-1987 season.
“They’re all locked in and are playing really well together. They’re guarding like crazy. And I think they’ve got a belief,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “I think Alabama is going to look around and go, ‘Who’s better than we are?’ Who’s better than Alabama in our league?”
Meanwhile, Auburn enters the contest on a three-game skid to start their SEC slate, but there is plenty of promise ahead of the game.
The Tigers have beaten Alabama seven out of 10 times in the Jungle and have scored a league-leading 113 made threes. And, if they can limit the turnovers, Pearl believes the team will be in pretty good shape.
“Hopefully, we are going to play a lot better than we’ve been playing and have a chance to keep this one competitive. We just do. We know that going in,” Pearl said. “The kids have had a couple of good days of preparation and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Despite the Tigers’ rocky start, Oats knows it’ll be a challenge to take down Auburn at home.
“This is not like we’re going in to play a bad Auburn team; this is a good team,” said Oats. “They’re obviously younger. They lost a lot of guys from last year, so they’re younger. They’re figuring themselves out, but we’re gonna be in for a dogfight – we know that.”
Both teams will be missing key players - Jahvon Quinerly for Alabama, and Justin Powell for Auburn, who is listed as questionable in concussion protocol.
Alabama is currently in first place of the SEC at 3-0 (8-3), while Auburn 0-3 (6-5) is tied for last.