AUBURN, Ala. — The halftime trophy presentation to Auburn's football team for winning the Iron Bowl might well be the most anticipated part of Wednesday night's game with Alabama.
The two schools that tangled for a potential national title shot in football a few months ago are having much more pedestrian basketball seasons.
The Tigers (8-9, 0-6 Southeastern Conference) have dropped 16 consecutive games against league opponents heading into the matchup with the Crimson Tide (9-10, 3-3 SEC). Still, it is a rivalry, on any playing surface and whatever the teams' fortunes.
"It's Alabama, every team in the country has a rival and obviously for us Alabama is the biggest one," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said Tuesday. "It's always good to get a win and for us a much-needed win if we can get it."
Football coach Gus Malzahn and his team receive the James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy at halftime.
Auburn's last conference win came 49-37 over the Tide on Feb. 6, 2013, with former Tigers football star Cam Newton leading the cheers in the student section. That was 51 weeks ago, but guard K.T. Harrell remembers it well even though he was on the bench as a transfer.
"It was fun," Harrell, the SEC's No. 2 scorer at 19.1 points per game, said. "Cam was in the place that night and we had a lot of energy, the fans were bringing a lot of energy. I expect the same thing (Wednesday)."
Now, Auburn has lost 22 of its last 23 games against conference opponents, including the league tournament. A loss Wednesday would match the 2010-11 Providence College team for the eighth-longest league skid among the major conferences over the past decade, according to STATS, Inc.
The Tigers are coming off their most lopsided conference loss of the season, 86-67 at Arkansas.
"Watching them play, I think they're playing really good basketball," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "They've had a chance in every game they've played.
"You can look at the results, at the end of the day, wins and losses. I know that's all we get measured by, but what I see is a team that plays extremely hard, that's been in every game they've played. Even the last game against Arkansas, they had chances down the stretch."
The Tide stumbled during a difficult nonconference schedule but is coming off a home win over LSU. Alabama is 0-7 outside of Coleman Coliseum this season.
No. 2 scorer Retin Obasohan has missed the last two games with an injured hip flexor and will likely be a game-time decision, Grant said. Obasohan, who leads the SEC in steals, has practiced this week.
"We'll see how he reacts (Tuesday) in terms of the soreness and where he's at," Grant said before practice.
Without him, Trevor Releford has played all but six seconds of the past two games over a three-day span while junior college transfer Algie Key started alongside him in the backcourt.
"He's our only senior so he understands the sense of urgency in terms of what we need to do for the games," Grant said. "To play 80 minutes in 48 hours, that was all heart and guts. Early in the second half (against LSU), you could see it taking a toll on him but we weren't in a position to take him out."
But Releford (18.2 points per game) and Obasohan (12.2) are the Tide's only double-figure scorers.
"They have a pretty good guard in Trevor Releford and we will be game-planning around him," Harrell said. "He has the ball in his hands a lot. Sticking to our game plan defensively and trying to execute offensively, if we do those things we will win."