Tigers Drop Two, South Carolina Comes to Auburn Arena
Auburn needs a big game from Samir Daughty Tuesday against South Carolina (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)
Auburn was soaring to the top of college basketball when it traveled to Coleman Coliseum to take on the Crimson Tide. The Tigers were ranked in the top five and were one of two unbeaten teams in America. There is nothing that Auburn fans love more than to beat Alabama, which Auburn has done fairly regularly since Bruce Pearl came to the Plains.
Last season, the Tigers hammered the Tide in their first meeting with a 21-point win at home before taking it to the Tide by six at Coleman. Auburn’s rise in prominence, coupled with the inability to compete with the in-state Tigers, likely led to Tide coach Avery Johnson being ousted in favor of Nate Oats. Of course, losing in the first round of the NIT as the one seed didn’t help.
If there is anything lifelong Auburn fans know about Auburn, it’s that Auburn will occasionally do the most “Auburn thing.” In this case, Auburn fans feared a white-hot Tide team that averaged 90 points in their last few games, while Auburn hasn’t been as sharp as it could, especially on the road
What followed was simply painful to watch. Auburn never led and only pulled within one point midway through the first half. Bama dropped 43 percent of their shots, something that they always seem to find against Auburn, while the Tigers bricked it up at a 31-percent clip. Neither team shot the long ball well, but it was the departure from what appeared like a sure-thing game plan that was astounding. Going into the game, it seemed the wise thing was for Auburn to slow the pace, feed Austin Wiley inside and wait for open shots on the outside. Instead, the Tigers got behind early and pressed way too hard, chunking up a lot of very bad shots. It didn’t help either that the Tigers committed 21 turnovers to Bama’s 15.
And, so, what felt like the inevitable occurred, and Auburn’s winning streak ended quite brutally.
The Tigers had a chance to learn from the mistake of starting slow on the road as they traveled to Gainesville to take on the Gators. After all, the Tigers couldn’t perform any worse than they had against Bama, right? Wrong!
Auburn was held to 47 points as the Gators piled on a 22-point victory. The Gators shot 50 percent from the floor, including an outstanding 47 percent from long range. Meanwhile, Auburn shot only 25 percent from the floor and 17 percent from distance. It simply defies logic as to how the Tigers could shoot the ball so poorly, yet they did. Just as against Bama, Auburn never led the game and tied it just once. Florida’s defense didn’t produce turnovers. In fact Auburn had only eight to the Gators’ 15, yet it couldn’t get any offensive rhythm going, leading to questions about the ability of point man J’Von McCormick to run the offense. Auburn scoring was led by Danjel Purifoy with 10 points, coming off the bench for the first time this season.
The team was going to lose sometime. But what seems so unbelievable is that it would happen in back-to-back games. Fans went from shocked and concerned to full-on panic following Saturday’s loss.
Sure, there is cause for concern. Auburn simply isn’t playing well. And fans who fell for Auburn’s ascension need to know that this team was never a Top-Five team. It hurts to agree with some of the talking heads who discounted Auburn success before last week, but the fact is that Auburn had yet to play a good team and at times played poorly, relying on physical dominance to win.
Contrary to what some fans think, and a lot of outsiders hope, this isn’t a reason to panic. In fact, it’s exactly what this team needs. Recall that last season’s Final Four team lost 11 games, including three straight SEC losses. Guess what, it was EXACTLY this time last season that the Tigers dropped games to Kentucky, Mississippi State, and South Carolina.
Guess who is up next? South Carolina. Tonight at 6:00 PM on ESPNU, the Tigers come back home to Auburn Arena for a get-right game against the Gamecocks. Carolina is coming off two straight wins, including a shocking win over Kentucky and are led by guard A.J. Lawson. The 6′ 6″ guard does a little bit of everything while averaging almost 14 points a game. However, he isn’t great at any one thing and is especially suspect at the line.
Meanwhile, Auburn’s leading man, Samir Doughty, has been… off. It is unclear if he is playing injured or just struggling to perform on the road. But, it’s certain that Auburn needs him back and in a big way.