Bama rolling, Auburn reeling ahead of rivalry game

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, front right, cheers his players coming in for a time out during their NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Nashville. Alabama won 58-54. (AP Photo/Alabama Media Group, Vasha Hunt)  MAGAZINES OUT

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, front right, cheers his players coming in for a time out during their NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Nashville. Alabama won 58-54. (AP Photo/Alabama Media Group, Vasha Hunt) MAGAZINES OUT

Alabama guard Trevor Releford (12) is hit in the face by Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller, foreground, during second half of an NCAA basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Mark Zaleski) NO SALES

Alabama guard Trevor Releford (12) is hit in the face by Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller, foreground, during second half of an NCAA basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Mark Zaleski) NO SALES

Alabama guard Trevor Releford (12) strips the ball away from Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson during second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Mark Zaleski) NO SALES

Alabama guard Trevor Releford (12) strips the ball away from Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson during second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/The Tennessean, Mark Zaleski) NO SALES

Auburn's Josh Wallace, center, covers his face as he sits on the bench next to teammates Frankie Sullivan, right, and Chris Denson, left, late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 91-77. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Auburn's Josh Wallace, center, covers his face as he sits on the bench next to teammates Frankie Sullivan, right, and Chris Denson, left, late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 91-77. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Auburn head coach Tony Barbee encourages his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 91-77. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Auburn head coach Tony Barbee encourages his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 91-77. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn coach Tony Barbee praised Alabama, saying the Crimson Tide might be the Southeastern Conference's hottest team except for Kentucky.

He did have many kind words for his Tigers.

Auburn (8-13, 2-6) has dropped six straight games going into Wednesday night's visit by the Alabama (14-7, 6-2), which has won six of its last seven.

Barbee said there's "a laundry list" of things ailing his team in the wake of a 91-77 defeat to No. 21 Missouri.

"How much time you got? It's a long list," the coach lamented. "It's about everything. Our defense, our offense. Everything, not very good. And that's on me. When I watch the tape, I told the guys I'm embarrassed to say I coach this team, and the majority of it is on me. My fault.

"I told them, 'I'm going to do my job to change it, and I need you guys to do your job and change, because it hasn't been enough.''"

He put the Tigers through a tough 6 a.m. practice Monday two days after a loss in which they hit 32 free throws but shot 36 percent from the field.

It was a low point for a team that won its first two SEC games. Guard Frankie Sullivan said he embraces Barbee's blunt assessment — and doesn't disagree.

"I'm like coach, I'm embarrassed," said Sullivan, whose 16.5 points per game is fourth in the league "I hate losing. I come from a winning program, and (it's) what I do. It's very embarrassing. It's hard to even get on a social network or talk to your family or friends about basketball because you're embarrassed.

"I feel very embarrassed by it. I don't take it as an offense. I take it as a challenge."

It wasn't all that long ago that Tide coach Anthony Grant was facing some similar concerns about his own team. Alabama went 1-5 in December and couldn't close out tight games.

Now, six of the last seven games have been decided by four points or less and Alabama has only dropped one of them, a 54-53 road loss to Tennessee. As a result, Alabama climbed into a three-way tie for second in the SEC with Kentucky and Mississippi, behind No. 2 Florida.

"We've been fortunate to come out on top of a few of them," Grant said. "During the month of December, we were on the other side of it. Maybe some of those lessons have helped our team a little bit. I don't know. Every coach will tell you there's no formula to it. We've just been fortunate to make a play offensively or defensively that's allowed us to win."

Even Barbee's praise of the Tide comes with a shot at his own team. He said Alabama has an explosive backcourt led by Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey.

"Then they've got other guys that really step up and contribute in key moments, and obviously that makes them better, gives them a level of leadership and toughness that my team doesn't have," said Barbee, who didn't rule out a shake-up to the starting five.

The Tide won at Vanderbilt for the first time since 1990 on Saturday after closing the game on an 18-3 run with leading scorer Releford on the bench after getting poked in the eye. Grant said that Releford, who had a season-low four points, should be fine for the Auburn game.

Alabama has won the last five meetings, and Barbee is 0-4 against the Tide.

The Auburn coach doesn't necessarily think a win over the chief rival will be a cure "because we could very easily slip back into whatever fog we've been in."

Sullivan is more optimistic.

"To get that win, I think it will ignite us and explode into something great," he said.

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