In many ways, this game resembled every other Auburn game this season. The Tigers started out on fire, draining two three pointers. Then, just when it seemed like maybe the offense would get rolling for an entire game, the shooting went cold.
Auburn shot 32% in the first half against Alabama. That is not good. It is especially not good when you consider how well the defense was playing. Auburn forced multiple shot-clock violations and had a good many turnovers, but just couldn't capitalize. So, they went in to the half down by two points.
As is the norm, Auburn came out in the second half playing strong. Since the game was close at the end of the first half, this resulted in a big Auburn lead rather than a comeback. However, Alabama stormed back in the final minutes of the game and it went down to the wire and Auburn could not pull out the upset road victory.
Here's Three Things We Learned:
1) Cinmeon Bowers may be one of the most fun Auburn players on the Plains in some time. Oh sure, he's going to frustrate us with some strange shots (especially ones from beyond the arc), and he's good for a number of questionable plays in just about every game.
But man is he fun to watch. He fights hard for the boards, and he gives it his all. When the fans in Coleman Coliseum were giving him hell, he gave it right back. When Bruce Pearl got heated, Cinmeon gave him a shoulder rub. Cinmeon Bowers is a beast, and he may be my favorite Auburn player by a long shot right now. I have honestly never been a huge basketball fan. I've probably watched more Auburn basketball this season than I have in my entire life. So granted I don't have much to go off of, but Cinmeon is just my favorite player to watch.
2) Auburn is a second half team. If you go back and look at the by-half scores this season, there are way too many games where Auburn is getting beat fairly handily in the first half, but then they outscore their opponent (or come very close to it) in the second half. Auburn has made some furious rallies for victory (Xavier) and some that ended in defeat (Mississippi State). Either way, this team just plays better in the second half. If they ever string two halves of basketball together consistently, they will be tough to beat.
3) For some reason, this team cannot sustain long periods of success. They jumped out big against South Carolina, but allowed USC to storm back and make it close. Auburn jumped out ahead of Alabama in the second half and looked like they could put the game away, but then allowed Alabama to come back in the closing minutes of the game. I don't know what it is, but this team just lacks the killer instinct needed to put games away, and Auburn has rarely come out on the plus side of high-intensity games that come down to the wire. Tonight was no exception.
Still, it was a good game to go on the road in such a high-intensity environment and know that the Tigers could have won if they were able to shoot better in the early going. If there's one big positive to take away from this for Auburn fans, it's knowing that Bruce Pearl took a team that is really not all that great into a hostile environment in a huge rivalry game and they almost pulled it out. The future is still very bright for Auburn basketball.