The secret to winning ugly in hoops Iron Bowl

By now you should have recovered from watching that dizzying display of basketball performed in Coleman Coliseum. Now read how it all came together for the Crimson Tide in a big win over Auburn …

TUSCALOOSA — Shoot a season-low from the field and make just 14 shots wasn’t the plan.

Rodney Cooper (AP photo)

Allow your bitter rival to ugly it up in your own gym should spell disaster. But Alabama snuck one out Wednesday night in a nervous Coleman Coliseum.

It did so with free throws.

A sloppily played night ended with a 55-49 Alabama win over Auburn thanks in part to a 24-5 scoring advantage from the line. The Crimson Tide (20-9, 9-6 SEC) took its fifth straight against Auburn and fourth in a row to close February and all but assure a trip to the NCAA tournament.

The disjointed night of basketball saw the hosts shoot 32 free throws to the guests’ 12. That was enough to overcome shooting 31.1 percent from the field and one of Auburn’s best defensive games of the year.

“I didn’t know what we shot until the end of the game, to be honest with you,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We were able to get in the bonus early in the second half and we were converting our free throws. It was evident there a few minutes into the second half that this was going to be a grind-it-out possession-type game.”

Leading the rhythm-less second half for the Tide was senior JaMychal Green. The Montgomery native scored 13 of his team-high 15 after halftime while making 7-of-10 free throws.

Green said the unsightly game was reminiscent of the 51-49 Alabama win over Auburn in Tuscaloosa last year. Green tipped in a shot at the buzzer to win that one and he had another crucial follow-up Wednesday night.

His tap-in with 37.0 seconds left Alabama ahead 51-47. Auburn (14-15, 4-11) never got any closer after missing two late 3s and Alabama made 4 of 6 free throws to seal it. The emotions of senior night played a factor early on, Grant said.

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