The Bruce Pearl Era began with an 83-73 victory over one of Pearl’s old teams – Milwaukee. A lively crowd, especially considering the 9 pm central start time, watched Auburn earn the season’s first win.
After a fast energetic start, Auburn went cold from the field. The early lead quickly dissipated and they trailed by three points at halftime.
When the jump shots quit falling, Auburn’s guards began to attack the basket in the second half. The Tigers used a 14-2 run to eliminate a double digit deficit and took over the game at the free throw line down the stretch.
The story of tonight’s game was junior college transfer Cinmeon Bowers. As Auburn’s only legitimate inside presence, he thrived with 18 points and 17 rebounds. He’s a fascinating player that plays with physicality but also has above average ball skills. The most impressive thing to me was his effort. The comparisons to Charles Barkley, at least in terms of style of play, will be made often this year.
Senior KT Harrell led the way with 20 points. Antoine Mason had 19 despite a rolled ankle and a cold shooting night. Jordon Granger hit two timely three point shots. The Tigers even got quality minutes from Austrailian newcomer Jack Purchase, freshman TJ Lang, and walk-on Devin Waddell. It was truly a team win.
Every player on the roster needs to be ready, because Injuries are quickly becoming a concern for this Auburn team. The only returning post player Matt Atewe went down with a leg injury in the exhibition game last week. Tahj Shamsid-Deen went down with a right shoulder injury tonight in the second half. If it’s serious, that’d be another huge loss.
It’s clear that this team will have its limitations and struggles, especially depth-wise on the interior. However, I enjoyed watching tonight’s game because of how much this Auburn team looked like a Bruce Pearl coached team.
They pressed after made baskets, relentlessly attacked the rim, and for the most part outworked the opponent with relentless energy. It’s going to take tremendous effort to make up for some of the deficiencies this roster has.
But for this first night, the deficiencies didn’t matter. What mattered was finding a way to get a win against a quality Milwaukee team. Despite some obstacles, Auburn managed to do that and now can continue the journey to bring Auburn basketball back to some sort of relevance.
Perhaps the best sign of the times to come for Auburn hoops was the fact that thousands of fans were still in the arena at 11:15 PM central time watching a basketball game. It is a new day for Auburn basketball indeed.