With the Carolina Panthers quarterback leading cheers, the Tigers rallied from a miserable first half for a 49-37 victory over Alabama Wednesday night. It was the fewest points the Crimson Tide has scored in the rivalry.
Allen Payne and Josh Wallace each scored 11 points and came up big in the second half for the Tigers (9-13, 3-6 Southeastern Conference), who took control with a 16-0 run and held Alabama scoreless for more than nine minutes.
Coach Tony Barbee had said he was "embarrassed" by Auburn's performance against Missouri that extended the Tigers' losing streak to six games. He was much gentler at halftime.
"We were actually the ones down," Payne said. "He came in and he was very positive. He said you've got to play with confidence offensively, and everything will start to go our way if we kept the defense up. So that's what we came out and did."
Newton watched from the student section and even led cheers with a megaphone. He won the Heisman Trophy and led Auburn to the national title in 2010 partly by his knack for leading comebacks.
"I hate to admit it but I saw him out there leading the cheers," Payne said.
The Tigers won despite managing just 13 points in the first half.
It was a season-low in points for Alabama (14-8, 6-3), which had won six of seven games and five straight in the rivalry. The Tide's previous low this season was 50 points.
It was also the fewest points scored by either team in the series since 1949.
"We got outplayed in every phase of the game," Tide coach Anthony Grant said. "Their focus, energy and effort was a lot better than ours. In the second half, it showed in that run they went on and our inability to score."
Payne scored nine points in the second half. Wallace, who was averaging 3.6 points, matched his season high — all in the second half.
Auburn mounted the comeback even with leading scorer Frankie Sullivan missing his first 11 shots in a 1-for-13, four-point performance.
"We finally didn't let our offensive struggles affect our defense," said Tigers coach Tony Barbee, who had lost his first four games against Alabama.
Trevor Releford and Rodney Cooper led Alabama with 11 points each.
Trevor Lacey fouled out with six points, half his season average, and Levi Randolph missed all seven of his shots.
The Tide made just 6 of 25 shots (24 percent) in the second half and was 2 of 19 from 3-point range for the game.
Auburn was even colder to start before hitting 12 of 21 shots (57.1 percent) in the second half.
"I didn't have to light a fire at all," Barbee said. "I thought we were playing hard."
The Tigers, who had just three baskets by halftime, came out of the locker room with a 25-5 surge.
The Tide had a scoring drought of 9:21 after Cooper's early 3-pointer
"They outhustled us for loose balls," Grant said. "They got out in transition and got layups. Their effort kept going up and we didn't match that. We can't do that.
"We need to look in the mirror because this was completely on us in terms of the energy we're supposed to play with in a game that means as much as this one meant."
Chris Denson gave Auburn a 38-28 lead on a drive with 6:25 left. The Tigers then scored five straight points after Cooper broke the scoreless stretch with a jumper.
Wallace scored on a drive and two free throws to push the lead to 44-31 with 2:10 remaining.
The Tigers hit just 3 of 23 shots (13 percent) before halftime to help Alabama build a 23-13 lead.
The starters made just one basket in 15 attempts.
Alabama jumped ahead 15-2 over the first 11 minutes, then the Tigers scored 10 straight. Releford scored six points to key an 8-1 run heading into the half before the Tide went into the big second half funk that left Grant bewildered.
"I can't explain the lack of effort, the lack of energy, the lack of execution," he said.