Coaches at the University of Alabama are hired to win games, educate young people and secure championships- but they are expected to beat Auburn.
Coach Avery Johnson will get his first chance to make his mark, for better or worse, on the rivalry that seems to never sleep in this state tomorrow night when Alabama travels to Auburn for an 8 p.m. tipoff.
Johnson heard talk of the rivalry when he accepted the position last year, but he also remembers watching the Iron Bowl with Alabama fans for the first time back in November.
“Seeing how the folks, Bama fans we were watching the game with, they were basically climbing the walls on every down so that was pretty exciting,” Johnson said.
Alabama swept Auburn last year in men’s basketball for the first time since 2012, but Alabama will have to be prepared to take on a confident Auburn squad that just toppled No. 13 Kentucky 75-70 at home.
“Their perseverance [stands out to me], I mean they go and lose at Missouri, I think, the game before that and they come back and beat Kentucky at home,” Riley Norris said. “It’s going to be who can stop who. Kareem Canty is pretty good and we know we got to shut him down.”
Canty currently leads SEC in 3-point shots made and is the No. 4 scorer in the conference averaging 19 points per game. Auburn’s Cinmeon Bowers can also be found atop SEC rankings. He is currently the No. 4 rebounder in the SEC and averages 8.9 a game.
“I say this is our state,” Jimmie Taylor said. “[Bowers] is one of the more physical guys in the league, and you know, I just have to play him physical.”
Johnson’s experience with the rivalry might be limited, but several of his players have not only played against the Tigers they grew up cheering against them.
Norris said playing in the rivalry gave him an even better perspective of how much emotion is involved.
“Growing up an Alabama fan, you always want to beat Auburn no matter what it is,” Norris said. “We’re proud we won last year, but we got to focus on tomorrow.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports