(photo:Albert Cesare, auburn/opelika news)
“We fought all night, and I don’t think we did that in the last two games.” That’s the way Auburn Guard Chris Denson explained the Tigers 66-64 last second victory over Clemson Thursday. And the Auburn guard was right.
The Tigers were coming off two blowout losses to Iowa State and Illinois and facing the nation’s No.1 defense in Clemson. Hopefully the scrappy defensive fight put up by Auburn is a sign of things to come.
Defense will be the key this year for Auburn because the 5-3 Tigers know how to score. Denson, the SEC’s leading scorer, has combined with Guard KT Harrell to average 38.3 points per game. Auburn came into the game averaging 76 points per outing. The problem though is the Tigers have been giving up 77.0 points per game.
Head Coach Tony Barbee worked the Tigers hard in the team’s 10 day layoff and the results paid off. Auburn gave a tough gritty performance, matching the intensity of the No. 1 scoring defense and field-goal percentage defensive team in the country and came away with the ‘W.’
“We did a lot of looking in the mirror, especially after the last two games,” Denson said. “I guess we thought it was going to come easy, but winning is hard.”
The game saw Auburn leading by as much as 11 points in the early going only to have the purple Tigers tie it up at the half. Clemson came out in the second half and went up 43-34. Then Denson made a layup at 8:10 to give Auburn a 50-48 lead. From there it was a see-saw battle right down to the wire. Denson scored 19 points and Auburn hit 4 of 6 free throws over the final 43 seconds to cap the victory.
However, the game’s ending showed just how much Auburn had to fight for the win. Clemson had to call timeout with four and a half seconds left and Auburn leading by two. Then Auburn fouled Jordan Roper who missed both foul shots. Landry Nnoka hit a layup off an in-bounds pass with 2 seconds remaining to cut Auburn’s lead to 65-64.
With only one second left, Auburn forward Allen Payne was fouled. He came to the line and hit one of his two free throws. Clemson’s Rod Hall then threw a full-court shot to the other goal that bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded. “You have to keep fighting,” said Barbee. “That has to be our identity.”
Keep fighting Tigers. Never yield!
If you can make the next game, come out and support the Tigers at 1 p.m. Sunday as they take on Boston College in the Auburn Arena. Beat the BC Eagles!
K.T. Harrell had a breakout performance with 29 points to lead the Tigers in defeating Boston College 77-67. It was the Tigers second straight victory against an ACC team.
Tags: Allen Payne, AubTigerman, Auburn basketball, Auburn blogs, auburn Tigers, Chris Denson, Clemson Basketball, KT Harrell, sec blogs, Tony Barbee, Track 'em Tigers