By (Matthew Speakman)

They have had the play in their minds since it happened.

Last season, in a road game against arch-rival Auburn, Alabama was ready to accept a 17-point loss. Auburn had different plans.

With barely any time left, walk-on Patrick Keim got the ball on the wing and put up a three pointer. It fell, and Auburn players celebrated with Keim as Alabama walked off the court.

Alabama has not forgotten that moment. It’s fueled them all season long.

“I think it’s crazy. I don’t even know why they let him do that,” Alabama guard Dazon Ingram. “We just got to come in and have that in the back of our mind. We’re going to bring out approach to the game with that on our mind.”

Since this Summer, head strength and conditioning coach Lou Deneed has played the clip for Alabama as a motivation tool. The players have seen it over and over, and each time it gets them ready to see Auburn once again.

“I don’t know his name, the kid who hit the 3 at the end,” said sophomore Braxton Key. “We’ve seen a lot of that clip. So, we’re excited for (Auburn).”

Tonight, Alabama welcomes No. 17 Auburn for the first time this season. Alabama has been watching that play even more this week.

The Tigers are on a 14-game winning streak, and are one of two teams in the country with just one loss.

Auburn has been playing without two key players in forwards Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. Auburn has been sort of a surprise this season. Alabama, who was projected to be one of the top teams in the SEC, has fallen short so far.

Still, both teams possess a lot of talent. This year’s installment has higher stakes than many of the games in recent memory.

“The rivalry isn’t something we are running away from,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “We understand the magnitude of it. I talk to the coaches of all our sports about it. If it’s basketball or football or diving, it’s a rivalry.”

Alabama and Auburn both put the conference on notice when they hired Johnson and Bruce Pearl, respectively. In his third year, Johnson is trying to deliver on that promise and take the team to new heights.

In his fourth year, Pearl has turned an offseason full of distractions into a successful season. Auburn is currently at the top of the SEC standings.

“I’ve talked to Bruce (Pearl) about it,” Johnson said. “I know we’re not supposed to be friends, and we’re not, but we have a cordial relationship. From day one, both of us have said the rivalry is better when both of our teams are good.”

Alabama and Auburn will tipoff at 6 p.m. CT tonight on the SEC Network. A win would boost Alabama’s resume, since Auburn is ranked and sits at No. 5 in

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports