For the first 20 minutes, Auburn played fast and loose with the ball. Georgia Southern had 7 steals to Auburn's 0 at the end of the first half. Both teams' shooting percentages were about the same at 38-39%. Georgia Southern lived up to their scouting as most of their shots were from beyond the arc.
Auburn's sloppy play was a big contributor to the turnovers. Georgia Southern's tight defense can be credited for the first half shooting percentage. The Eagles did an excellent job of not letting the Tigers get off the type of shots they wanted. The teams went into the half with Auburn doing what it's done in all three games so far: letting the opposing team go on a run to get the score close. Auburn only had a one point lead at the break.
In the second half, Auburn came out firing. The lead grew steadily throughout the half as Auburn picked up the slack on the steals and the defense got into a real block party. Timely three pointers and some great jams got the Arena rocking and kept the Tigers playing strong. Where defense had been an issue in the first two games, the second half of this game was a great defensive effort. The Eagles were held to 23% shooting from the field.
It was a lot of fun to see an Auburn team really put someone away. The Eagles aren't a push-over, either. They took put up 80+ on Ole Miss Monday night. Transitive properties don't exactly apply, but the Tigers were able to score just as many as the Rebels while shooting fewer three pointers, and they held the Eagles' offense to 20 points less.
Four Tigers scored in double-digits, and only two of them were the usual (Canty and Dunans). Tyler Harris didn't have the best night, as he only had 9 points and didn't see much action after his fourth foul with 10 minutes still left to play. No one had over 15, though, so it was nice to see points spread out.
There's a lot to be excited about from this game. There's still some things to worry about, though. Let's discuss some things we learned.
1) Cinmeon Bowers had a great night. Double-doubles were regular happenings for Bowers last season. He's struggled so far in this one. Tonight the old Cinmeon came out, though. He was great with the rebounds and had a good night scoring, too. His free throw shooting was much better than it's been all season, too. He's still the same old Bowers, though. He made some easy shots hard. He seems to think every pass has to be an acrobatic effort. He tries to be flashy when he doesn't need to be. However, his good far outweighed the bad, tonight. It was nice to see him put in the effort that he did.
2) Auburn's defense is a different animal with a healthy Tahj Shamsid-Deen on the floor. Tahj is so much fun to watch. He makes great defensive plays and is able to finish on the transition better than just about anyone else on the team. I marveled at how high he jumped off the ground on his transition three pointer late in the first half. In the second half he made two great plays where he went coast-to-coast and just flowed through and past defenders for the easy lay-in. He appeared to have some form of injury issue with his left leg in the second half that forced him to leave the game for spurts. Hopefully he's ok.
3) Horace Spencer still needs some work. He's amazing on defense. The three pointer that he blocked was at least halfway to the top of its arc. His work on the offensive end struggled, though. He blew a few easy jams and lay-ins. It will come, though. He's going to be so much fun to watch when he gets it all together.
4) Bryce Brown can shoot. He didn't see much action, but what he did see he took advantage of. He's got a great three point shot. I can't wait to see him get more minutes, too. Bryce was one of four Tigers in double digits for total points and he did it in only 6 minutes.
5) TJ Dunans is an excellent all-around player. Need shots blocked? He can do that. He had three of them. Free throws? A perfect 4-4. He's great under the basket. He's great from the floor. There's a reason he was the top JUCO guy.
Auburn has a week off now. Their next game will be Friday night against Northwestern State.