Alabama just knocked off No. 8 Auburn to forge a tie for first place in the SEC.

But coach Nate Oats is looking for improvement as the Crimson Tide (13-6, 5-1 SEC) prepare to face LSU (11-8, 3-3) on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Oats called the 79-75 home victory against Auburn a “big win” that the team needed, “but we’ve got to get better at a lot of things here.”

Alabama faced an early eight-point deficit against Auburn before turning things around.

“We’ve got to figure our starts out,” Oats said. “We have not had good starts here for a long time.”

The slow starts haven’t been fatal for the Tide, who have won seven of their last eight games. Their last four losses, dating to Dec. 9, came against opponents ranked No. 4 (Purdue), No. 8 (Creighton), No. 4 (Arizona) and No. 6 (Tennessee) at the time Alabama faced them.

Oats said Auburn “punched us in the mouth out of the gate,” but he was pleased by his team’s response to the punch.

“I thought we showed some grit and fought through some adversity,” he said.

LSU showed similar traits in its last game, even though it came up short in a 68-66 loss at Georgia on Wednesday.

The Tigers were down by eight points with 2:55 remaining and went on a 9-0 run to take the lead on Jalen Cook’s three-point play with 16 seconds left. But they gave up an offensive rebound and then a three-point play with two seconds left.

“I thought our guys showed great resiliency throughout the game,” coach Matt McMahon said. “We got down multiple times and just kept playing and kept fighting. Really competed at a high level and always had a run in us to get back into the game.”

It was the second straight down-to-the-wire loss for the Tigers, who missed two potential tying 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds of a four-point home loss to Texas A&M last Saturday.

Mark Sears, who led Alabama with 22 points against Auburn, paces the team with 19.9 points per game. Jordan Wright averages 15.9 ppg to lead LSU.

–Field Level Media

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