After Buzzer Beater Comeback against LSU, Auburn Looks for Payback against Tide
Auburn guard J'Von McCormick made a Buzzer-beater shot in a crucial SEC overtime defeat of LSU (photo: Sara Palczewski/oanow.com)
There was a different feeling from Auburn basketball’s showdown versus LSU than last week’s take down of the Kentucky Wildcats. The showdown with Kentucky brought fanfare that accompanies blueblood teams and with it came College Gameday, a first for Auburn. The Kentucky game was the prime-time event, and though it was a hard-fought contest, Auburn walked away with a nearly double-digit win. The Tigers survived a mid-week struggle on the road before LSU was on deck.
Unlike the Kentucky game, it was largely ignored by the media as Duke at North Carolina drew the headlines. The 11:00 AM game didn’t receive near the hype, despite featuring two top-20 teams in a huge battle for first place in the SEC. Of course, the LSU loss to Vanderbilt just days before surely took a lot of the luster from the matchup. Yet that didn’t stop Auburn’s faithful from doing what they’ve done since Bruce Pearl’s arrival on the Plains. No Gameday, no fanfare, no problem. In the early hours of Saturday morning, the line outside Auburn Arena stretched around the building.
That’s about where the similarities to the Kentucky game end.
Where Auburn strolled to a comfortable win against the ‘Cats last Saturday, it took an overtime buzzer beater by point guard J’Von McCormick to beat LSU. It was Auburn’s second overtime win in a row, third in four games, and the fourth OT game this season. Auburn, somehow, is 4–0 in overtime, a statistic that is almost unbelievable. Perhaps the only thing more unlikely is how Auburn took down LSU, despite being down eight points in the closing minute and a half of regulation.
Every time Auburn tried to close the gap, LSU managed to pull its lead back to eight. Following a McCormick turnover and a pair of free throws from Skylar Mays after a foul on McCormick on the change of possession, Auburn looked to be done. After all, the Tigers had been unable to make any headway on LSU despite playing well in the closing minutes. But Auburn wasn’t done. McCormick, who has faced criticism for his work in replacing Jared Harper, bounced back in a big way. He hit three long balls to make it a two-point deficit with just 46 seconds left to play in regulation. Then Skylar Mays was pick-pocketed by McCormick, which led to the game-tying layup by Samir Doughty.
In overtime, Auburn jumped out to a sizable seven-point lead, but LSU stormed right back, and the two traded punches until, once again, Auburn was on the ropes after an Emmitt Williams dunk on a costly in-bounds turnover gaffe with just nine seconds left. Following the dunk, coach Will Wade took a time out that likely doomed his squad. Of course, it didn’t seem that way at the time. All Auburn had to do was inbound the ball, get fouled, and sink some free throws. Instead, the Tigers gave the ball away, and LSU made them pay.
The crowd was shocked but not done. Even as the slam went down, the pep band was on its feet, rallying the troops. McCormick took the pass in bounds, drove across half court, cut left to open the lane, drove to the paint, but didn’t dish the ball. Typically, Samir Doughty is the slasher and has been fearless in the face of tough defense at the rim. One might also expect the drive and dish to Auburn’s hot shooting wings. But, no. McCormick, who had suddenly become Auburn’s hot hand, floated one from the charity stripe, and it hit the back iron before falling. The Tigers took home a 91–90 win that Bruce Pearl would later call one of the finest wins of his career.
Despite a 30-point effort by LSU’s Skylar Mays, the Auburn guard duo stole the show, piling up 49 points with Doughty scoring 26. Austin Wiley was quiet for most of the night but still finished with a double double. Perhaps the unsung hero of the game was Devan Cambridge, who came off the bench to score 21 points, all from downtown, on 7–10 shooting. The 21 points were his first points since he scored 26 against South Carolina five games ago. Starting wing Danjel Purifoy missed the contest due to illness, and Auburn seemed to be lost early on without him. It was McCormick and Cambridge that bridged the gap.
Alabama comes to Auburn Arena Wednesday night, and Auburn hopes to repay the Tide for the 20-point thrashing the Tigers received in Coleman Coliseum. Bama is on a very short bench, and there isn’t a conceivable reason why the Tigers can’t take it to the Tide. That’s what makes this rivalry great because anything can happen. Tune in to the game at 6:00 PM on ESPN2.