Auburn's Bruce Pearl explains heated exchange after loss to Alabama

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Alabama's Collin Sexton had one thing to say after another incredible performance: "Don't count us out". Kentucky beat Alabama 86-63.

On Friday, he was even better.

The Tide came into the game having outscored No. 1-seed Auburn 50-22 in the second half Friday. Coming into Saturday's contest he was averaging just 6.1 points per game on 51 percent FG shooting, to say nothing of his 35 percent accuracy from outside.

"Getting Desean back, that was encouraging to see him step up", Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. The Wildcats are 230-5 under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points during a game.

"The key is to be able to utilize his ability, and without it taking away from the team aspect". "We've been shooting not very good this year, but when it counted, we were pretty good tonight". Sixteen seconds earlier, a three-point play by John Petty reduced UK's lead to 65-56.

Johnson gave that assessment in a jubilant Alabama locker room after the Crimson Tide blitzed regular-season SEC co-champion and tourney No. 1 seed Auburn, 81-63.

"Once we got stops, Coach told us to just run", Sexton said. "Don't worry about missing or anything else".

Mustapha Heron led Auburn (25-7) with 18 points, 11 of which came in the first half. That marked the first time Alabama had been within single digits since 37 seconds remained in the first half.

"I wouldn't say that", said Quade Green, Kentucky's freshman point guard. "You know, the snub in 2016, everybody remembers that, and we don't want to go through that again, so the only way to avoid that is to try to win this whole thing".

With Sexton in the zone, his teammates followed.

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Gabriel was on fire from deep en route to tying a career-high in scoring.

"[Calipari] definitely challenged me", Gabriel said, "and I just stepped up". Sexton (20.8 points and 4.6 assists) has been stellar for the Crimson Tide while Gilgeous-Alexander (14.4 points and 6.6 assists) has contributed greatly to the Wildcats.

Compete in the 2018 Bracket Challenge for your chance to win great prizes including a Playstation PS4, Fathead clings, great local prizes and a chance at $1,000,000 for a flawless bracket. "When we get to the tournament, everybody is 0-0".

ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Auburn as the No. 3 seed in the West Region (Los Angeles) and playing New Mexico in the first round in Dallas.

Kentucky's defense seemed to make another second-half Alabama rally unlikely.

"We've been trying to build a resume all season long", Alabama coach Avery Johnson said.

"Sometimes, man, life is just amusing", Johnson said after his team's dramatic and memorable response Friday. We talked about dominating. "I think he may have clipped me, and then he said something to me", Pearl said after the game.

Arkansas hit 14 of 15 free throws in the first half, including eight in a row to end the half with a 36-28 lead. The freshman scored 21 second-half points. "We did what we wanted to do in the first half". We shot it well, which was what we needed to do. We made some really good effort, energy plays. "Let's pressure them. Let's do things to get into their legs.' That was probably the biggest reason".

While Auburn heads home to await its NCAA T ournament destination, Alabama continues its SEC T ournament run. Auburn's underwhelming finish may make them susceptible to an upset in the NCAA Tournament, as Pearl acknowledged postgame.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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