If I told you Auburn had a 15 point lead, shots were dropping like crazy, and they were playing great defense during the first half, you'd think Auburn came away with a win, wouldn't you?
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. In the second half, Auburn's shots stopped falling. Colorado really began taking advantage of their height, the refs seemed to call breathing wrong as a foul on Auburn, and Colorado took advantage of their trips to the free throw line while Auburn squandered theirs.
Auburn was playing well up until a technical foul on Horace Spencer for spiking the basketball after a dunk. That's when the wheels started to come off and Colorado went on a big run to take a 14 point lead, themselves. Auburn made a go of things late, but by then they were already too far behind.
While Auburn fans on Twitter (myself included) were angry at the refs for what certainly appeared to be questionable calls from the stands, the free throw attempts were very close in number. Colorado had 26, Auburn had 22. The difference is that Colorado shot 80% (21-26) and Auburn shot 54.5% (12-22). That's a lot of points left on the board.
In addition, Colorado out rebounded Auburn where it counted. The Buffaloes came up with 38 boards (9 offensive, 29 defensive), while Auburn had 30 (13 offensive, 17 defensive). Failing to get more offensive rebounds really hurt the Tigers, this afternoon.
Three Things We Learned
1) When this team is hot, they're HOT. The shooting in the middle of the first half was outstanding. Auburn was draining everything and the Arena was rocking. If the Tigers find more consistency on offense, Auburn Arena will be a very tough place for opponents to play. They really can't afford to suffer from cold stretches like they did in 2014/15.
2) There's still work to do. This team looks like there's a lot more all around talent on it than last year (and it should, because there is), and they're going to be a tough game for a lot of opponents, but they're not near what they're capable of, yet. The defense needs work. They were feeding off the offense in the first half and playing great, but once the offense started struggling, the defense got a little sloppy. When it got sloppy, that gave the refs more reason to call every little foul.
3) The new rules suck right now. I understand that there's a need to "clean up" college basketball, but that should also include cleaning up the refs, too. It's way too easy for them to affect the outcome of a game. I'm not saying that's what was behind this afternoon, because Auburn hurt themselves in shooting and in free throws, but it seemed like whistles were blowing left and right and slowing things down and making it less fun to watch. Hopefully teams adapt better as the season goes on and they feel less need to call these fouls. Unfortunately, all that's been done so far is give refs who already love interjecting themselves into a game more reason to blow the whistle and let everyone know they're there.
Auburn is now 1-1 going into Friday night's game against Georgia Southern. The Eagles gave Ole Miss a run Monday night, but while the score was somewhat close, there was never any real doubt that the Rebels would pull that game out. The Eagles should provide the Tigers with another good test, but one they should overcome. More on that later this week, though.