The news spread quickly through Coleman Coliseum. The absence of Collin Sexton was noticeable during warmups and the reason confirmed 20 minutes before tip.
Alabama would be without its injured leading scorer and the point spread quickly jumped to five.
John Petty, however, picked up the slack.
The freshman from Huntsville went off, shooting Alabama to a 76-71 upset that ended Auburn’s 14-game winning streak. Petty scored 27 with eight 3 pointers. It ended a two-game skid for the Tide against the Tigers.
“When I hit about four or five, I’m fully in the zone,” Petty said. “That’s when it’s really feeling good so I just keep shooting. Nine times out of 10, my teammates are going to get me open so, at that time, all the shots are going to be good shots because I’m going to be open. So I just shoot them.”
Auburn, hot from 3 early, lost its touch after halftime. It trailed by as many as 13 by making just 2 of 11 second-half perimeter shots. It also went cold from the free throw line late, making 12 of 19 in the second half.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called the loss a “missed opportunity.” He twice said Alabama was the most talented team its faced this season.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy,” Pearl said. “And I’m not really sure why. The grind of the season, maybe.”
Bryce Brown made things interesting in the closing seconds with a 3-pointer that cut it to two with 5.5 seconds left. Petty and Dazon iced things on the other end with three free throws.
The No. 17 Tigers (16-2, 4-1 SEC) had not lost since Nov. 17 against Temple in the Charleston Classic.
Petty had a lot to say about ending that heater. After breaking a school record with 10 3-pointers early in the season, the shooter again found his range when Alabama needed a scorer. He was 8-for-13 from 3-point range after rimming out two late.
The Tide (12-6, 4-2 SEC) also got 16 points from Dazon Ingram and 11 from Herbert Jones who got the start.
Alabama also got a boost from an unexpected performance by Donta Hall. A wrist injury was supposed to cost him another week or so, but the junior came off the bench midway through the first half and collected a block almost immediately. He scored 2 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
“I know his numbers don’t look good but the team fed off Donta wanting to play tonight,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “What a classy move.”
Turnovers were an issue for Alabama without the regular ball handler on the floor. It gave away 19 possessions — one short of tying the season high recorded in a December loss UCF.
The first half had its share of momentum swings. Alabama jumped out to a 14-5 lead on a pair of quick Petty 3s. Auburn slapped back with an 11-0 run with three straight 3s of its own. Brown caught fire late in the half with three deep balls.
Without Sexton’s 19.3 points a game, the Tide had to get creative. Alex Reece hit a pair of 3s late in the first half to tie the game. Just when the home crowd sensed a shift, Chuma Okeke hit a 3 at the halftime horn. Auburn was 7-for-15 from deep in the first half.
An 11-2 run from Alabama early in the second half gave the hosts the final lead of the game. Auburn got it down to 3 with 1:01 left and then 2 in the closing seconds before the final free throws supplied the final score.
Brown was Auburn’s leading scorer with 12 followed by 11 from Desean Murray and 10 apiece from Jared Harper and Okeke.
Pearl said the Auburn team will have to spend another night in Tuscaloosa because the weather won’t allow them to travel back to Auburn on Wednesday night.
Alabama and Auburn meet again in Auburn Arena on Feb. 21.
“We have to get back to work,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to celebrate. There are no parades. We have to get up and go to class tomorrow.”