Alabama men beat No. 8 Auburn for first win vs. ranked opponent

AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama guard Mark Sears, right, drives against Aubur's Aden Holloway during Wednesday night's SEC matchup of in-state rivals in Tuscaloosa.
AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama guard Mark Sears, right, drives against Aubur's Aden Holloway during Wednesday night's SEC matchup of in-state rivals in Tuscaloosa.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama star Mark Sears and the Crimson Tide got another crack at a top-10 team, and this time the result was much different.

Sears had 22 points and eight assists, and he made two free throws with nine seconds left to seal Alabama's 79-75 win over No. 8 Auburn on Wednesday night, ending the Tigers' 11-game winning streak.

The Tide (13-6, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) moved into a tie with their in-state rival atop the SEC standings. It was their first win over a ranked opponent in five tries this season, all of them against teams in the top 10 at the time.

Alabama had a big rebound from Saturday's 20-point loss at Tennessee, which moved up a spot to No. 5 when the latest AP Top 25 men's basketball poll was released Monday.

"It took a monumental effort, and we were a lot tougher than we were in the game at Tennessee," Alabama coach Nate Oats said.

Auburn (16-3, 5-1) had a chance to tie with 13 seconds left when Alabama fouled Chad Baker-Mazara on a 3-point attempt. Baker-Mazara hit his first two free throws but missed the third, cutting the Tide's lead to 75-74.

Grant Nelson, who had six points over the final 1:39 of game clock, grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called two timeouts before Nelson went to the foul line with 12 seconds to play, but he made both.

Alabama then fouled Jaylin Williams before he could launch a potential tying 3-point try -- which went off the glass and in -- on the other end. He went 1-for-2 on his free throws, and Sears iced it at the other end.

Alabama's Rylan Griffen came off the bench for only the second time this season but responded with 17 points. He made five 3-pointers, including four in a 4:19 span of the first half.

"Coach told me he wanted me to come in and do that, just come in and help us," said Griffen, who had seven points and six turnovers against Tennessee. "Whatever role I've got to play to win games like that, that's what I'm going to do."

Nelson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Latrell Wrightsell Jr. made his second start and had 14 points and nine rebounds.

Johni Broome led Auburn with 25 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Baker-Mazara scored 11 points, but Auburn was just 5-for-25 on 3-point attempts.

"We missed some shots that you need to make to win against a really good team on the road," said Pearl, who is 2-7 at Coleman Coliseum with Auburn. "I don't know that many teams are going to come in here and win in our league. We were a team that had the ability and had a chance."

The Tide scored the final nine points of the first half to take a 44-30 lead after trailing by as many as eight points. The Tigers missed their last nine 3-point attempts, but they came out of the break with their own 9-0 spurt.

Alabama is the first team to win three straight in the rivalry since the Tide did it in 2015.

The game had a 19-minute delay to get the overhead lights in Coleman Coliseum switched back to normal after pregame introductions.

"They didn't flip over from the red to the regular lights," Oats said, "and we were trying to figure out if we could play in the dark."

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