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February 24, 2008Lucas Hargrove once again provided Auburn with a quick spark off the bench.
The only difference was he left his seat when the starters were introduced, instead of sometime after tipoff.
Hargrove scored a career-high 28 points in his second start of the season and the Tigers made a season-best 12 3-pointers to beat Alabama 88-76 on Sunday.
"I guess I'm dumb," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "I should have started him the whole year; 28 points was awfully good today.
"We needed them all. I hadn't been pleased with the inconsistent play of DeWayne Reed, so I decided to bring Reed off the bench and just start Lucas this game."
Hargrove responded by making 9-of-12 shots and topping his previous best of 13 points by halftime. He didn't know about Lebo's decision until a few minutes before the game.
"Coach wrote the (starters') names on the board and I didn't want to let him down," Hargrove said.
The Tigers (14-11, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) used a 14-4 run midway through the second half to break open a four-point game and easily avoid a season sweep by their rival.
Quan Prowell added 22 points and nine rebounds despite playing much of the game in foul trouble. He made 4-of-6 3-pointers before fouling out late.
Frank Tolbert and Rasheem Barrett added 10 points apiece while Quantez Robertson had eight points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.
Alabama (14-13, 3-9) fell into a tie with LSU for last place in the SEC Western Division with its fourth loss in the past five games. Auburn, which had dropped six of its last seven, now shares third place with Mississippi.
They had fallen by 20 points earlier this season at Alabama.
This time Hargrove came out hot, scoring 11 points in a three-minute span of the first half. He also brought a little swagger into the lineup.
"I'm confident. I don't want y'all thinking I'm cocky or anything, but I feel like I'm a go-getter," Hargrove told reporters after the game. "We didn't come to lose."
The Tide still managed a one-point halftime lead but couldn't sustain it with even open shots not falling.
"I think we got a little frustrated," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We had a lot of shots around the rim. We had some good-looking shots from the perimeter."
Undersized Auburn also kept Alabama's Richard Hendrix in check most of the game, making it hard for the Tide to get him the ball inside.
"They just put three guys on him in the paint and guarded the other two and left two wide open," Gottfried said. "There wasn't a lot of room in there for him. There weren't a lot of opportunities to get him the ball.
"That's where you've got to step up and make some shots and force the team to defend you a little differently."
Instead, the Tide made just 8-of-28 3-pointers.
Alonzo Gee led Alabama with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Hendrix finished with 16. Both were contained until the final minutes when the game was already decided. Hendrix finished with seven rebounds, three below his league-leading average.
"They had great pressure on the ball," he said. "I was missing a lot of shots that I would normally make. They were making it really tough to buy a basket in the paint."
Mykal Riley added 15 points and 10 rebounds and his four 3-pointers gave him 12 for the past two games.
The Tigers' decisive spurt gave them a 68-54 lead with 7:41 left on Prowell's short jumper. Alabama quickly cut the deficit to eight but Barrett answered the short run with a 3-pointer and the Tide never got back within single digits.
"I thought the game was their ability to make some big shots, which they did, and our inability to make a lot of open shots," Gottfried said.
The Tide had taken a 40-39 halftime lead on Brandon Hollinger's drive to the basket with 5 seconds left. Alabama had used a 20-3 run to go up by as many as 10 points, but Hargrove's 11-point scoring binge helped the Tigers come back.
Hargrove, though, said he wasn't fretting over whether the role change was permanent.
"I hope I start again, but if I don't it's not a big deal," he said. "I'll just come off the bench and contribute."