TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - JaMychal Green picked the perfect time to be in the right place.
Green rescued sputtering Alabama with a tip-in with .3 seconds left to lift Alabama to a 51-49, come-from-behind victory over rival Auburn on Wednesday night and help avoid a damaging defeat.
Tony Mitchell drove to the basket in a tie game and missed but Green soared toward the bucket and knocked the ball into the basket with his right hand to make the game-winner for the Crimson Tide (19-8, 11-2 Southeastern Conference), which had trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half.
``It was a ball screen to Tony but I just tried to follow up the shot,' Green said. ``It's been a long time since I won a game on a tip-in. It's a great feeling.'
Auburn (9-18, 2-11), which had four players foul out, tied it on Tony Neysmith's driving bank shot with 13 seconds to play.
Alabama overcame a nearly game-long offensive funk and season-low 26.2-percent shooting performance to move to 15-0 at home and avoid absorbing a big blow to its hopes of receiving an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
``If you look at the numbers for us, it equates to a loss,' Tide coach Anthony Grant said. ``We got stops from a defensive standpoint. We found ways to chip away. Once we got it under five, the energy really kicked in and the crowd got into it. The whole team, we were really out of synch.
``I think our whole team today did not play up to their standards, the way we want to play. I told them sometimes as a team we need these near-death experiences.'
The Tide closed the game on a 17-6 run after enduring long field-goal droughts to start both halves. Auburn finished with one of its own, going nine minutes without a basket down the stretch.
Tigers coach Tony Barbee's late-game defensive strategy: ``Play zone and hope they miss.'
``It seemed to work but give them credit,' Barbee said. ``They made the plays down the stretch and we didn't.
``I told my guys that there's a big difference between playing hard and scoring. We put them to the foul line way too much when they were struggling to score.'
The Tigers scored only eight points after going up by 12 in the first 8 minutes of the second half.
Alabama completed the series sweep and has its best SEC record at this point since also starting out 11-2 during the 1986-87 season. The Tide has already clinched the Western Division title and entered the game tied atop the league standings with No. 13 Florida, which plays Georgia Thursday night.
``We just wanted it so bad,' Tide point guard Trevor Releford said. ``We just looked at it like, what do we have at stake? And we just knew we couldn't let them survive.'
Green had 17 points and four blocked shots for the Tide. He attempted 14 of Alabama's 40 free throws, making nine.
No other Tide player reached double digits. Mitchell made 1 of 7 field goals and had eight points, half his season average.
Earnest Ross led Auburn with 10 points, but the Tigers' top scoring threat spent the final four minutes on the bench with five fouls. He fouled out trying to get the ball back after a steal by Andrew Steele.
The rivalry game was intense but sloppy. The teams combined for 42 turnovers and 47 fouls and only nine assists. Alabama made just 11 of 42 baskets.
Green had chances to avoid the last-second drama but made just half of his six free throw attempts over the final 2:54. But his first trip to the line during that stretch capped a 10-0 run and gave Alabama its first lead of the game, 44-43.
The Tigers snapped a 9-minute drought without a field goal on Neysmith's answering bank, but the Tigers couldn't retake the lead they had held most of the game.
Auburn shot 56.5 percent (13 of 23) in the first half against a team that ranks third nationally in field-goal percentage defense.
Then the Tigers cooled off with a 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) second-half performance.
Auburn had stunned the Coleman Coliseum crowd by taking control from the outset. The Tigers went up by double digits in the opening minutes then went on a 17-2 run to build a 31-16 lead with 2:55 left in the first half. It was Alabama's largest deficit in an SEC game this season.
It didn't last long. Alabama scored the final nine points, including six straight from Green to cut it to 31-25 by halftime. Auburn pushed it back to 12 points 8 minutes into the second half, but managed only eight points the rest of the way.
Alabama didn't hit a field goal until the 12:05 mark of the first half, and started the second on a four-minute scoring drought.
``If we would have come out more focused, we would have knocked more shots down, and we wouldn't have been in that predicament,' Releford said.
The Associated Press News Service
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