What a game. After being down by 13 at the half, the Tigers fought back hard in the second half and had opportunities to close it out in regulation, but sloppy play and bad free throw shooting let Xavier hang in and force over time. Fouls allowed Xavier to stick around in the second overtime.
1) Depth is still an issue. Bowers started the game off strong with a number of rebounds, but also had two fouls before the 16 minute media time out and had to sit for a while. He came back in due to Thompson getting two fouls, and then sat again with just over 4 minutes to play in the half when he got his third foul. Losing him for a time that early hurts. Trayvon Reed and Alex Thompson played well in relief, but Bowers is a special player. Having Reed made this a little more palatable though, as just his height is enough to ensure that he is a disruptive force. It really took Auburn out of its game plan and is one of the reasons Xavier was able to jump up to a big lead.
2) Free throws. Come on, Auburn. Is it really that hard to consistently hit free throws? It seems like Auburn misses at least one every time they go to the line. Hitting more consistently from the line would be a huge help for the Tigers. This has been a problem for years and hopefully The Rifleman can help with the shooting. Converting free throws could have put the game away for Auburn with just under 40 seconds left. Instead, Bowers went 1-2 and then a three pointer for Xavier tied it with 19 seconds to play.
3) This team doesn't quit. Auburn came out strong in the 2nd half. Every time the Tigers scored, the Musketeers would push right back down and get a basket themselves at first. Then - just as against Winthrop - a big defensive play and a huge Bowers dunk sparked the Tigers to bring it back. We've said it a few times this season, and it fits in again, tonight. This team dies. not. quit. Going into the half down by 13 points, it would have been easy to give up and coast in. However, the Tigers came out and fought hard. Malcolm Canada played the second half like a man possessed. He had the game of his Auburn career against the Musketeers.
This is very close to being a very good basketball team. To play Xavier like they did tonight is a big accomplishment. The cold stretches still hit and kill momentum. In this game it was about midway through the first half. The Tigers were also horrendous from beyond the arc. I don't know if that's bad shooting or bad decision making because they were shooting from that far away in the first place. Clean up the free throws, the sloppy play, and the three point misses, and Auburn wins this game by a nice margin.