If you were at the game, you got to witness some great shooting by Kareem Canty, despite the overall outcome (and even the token Bama fan that attends Auburn sporting events).
If you weren't at the game, you likely wondered what in the world you were watching as the live stream went in and out, suffering from buffering that would put that one episode of Silicon Valley to absolute shame.
Frustration abounded either way as Auburn (4-2) fell to Middle Tennessee State (6-2) by a final score of 88-81 after a single overtime period. Kareem Canty kept Auburn's hopes alive at the end of the second half when he hit a monstrous three from downtown to tie the game at 73, but turnovers, sloppy play, and a few questionable calls hurt the Tigers in overtime, and the Blue Raiders of MTSU answered at every stretch.
Here's the quick run-down.
Auburn closed the second half of play with its largest lead of the game at 38-29 after a Tyler Harris tip-in for two. MTSU had a very difficult time finishing shots in the first half while Auburn struggled with free-throws—especially when it came to and-one's. Both Harris and Horace Spencer had chances for three-point plays in the first half, but missed the crucial free-throws. Otherwise, it was Tyler Harris pacing the Tigers with 12 points and 9 rebounds going 5/9 shooting.
Despite Auburn going 3-10 in three-pointers in the first half, it was Kareem Canty who began making it rain in the second half. Canty finished the game going 8-13 in three-pointers, including the one that sent Auburn into overtime. On the other side, it was the Reggie Upshaw hour as he finished the day with a team-leading 21 points and 13 rebounds. His efforts in the second half and in overtime helped MTSU seal the deal and come out of Bridgestone with a win.
What we learned.
1. Kareem Canty is showing us flashes of KT Harrell...
...but can he be consistent? Canty had actually shown some very solid efficiency with the ball even halfway through overtime (8 assists and no turnovers at that mark), but despite this stat and his KT Harrell-like downtown three to send Auburn into overtime, a couple of missed opportunities (including a turnover involving Cinmeon Bowers) plagued the Tigers late. One thing is for sure, though. Canty has nearly mastered the deadly step-back three. Find him the space, and he'll make most of those shots.
2. MTSU rode the storm...
and it did so through solid play by Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts. Upshaw had a few layups and a key alley-oop dunk that got the MTSU crowd on its feet and sent the Blue Raiders into attack mode. The momentum nearly washed Auburn away, but Canty, Harris, and the Tigers found a way to fight back and make it to overtime. However, it simply wasn't enough.
3. The second-half lull killed Auburn...will we ever break it?
Despite getting to an overtime period, Auburn came out of halftime looking sloppy. Two early turnovers and a 12-3 run by the Blue Raiders killed the Tigers' momentum from the first half. If we are going to compete against SEC teams, we have to stay focused. Even when questionable calls come into play and tempers flare, it's up to the guys on the floor to keep their composure and play through it.
Key turnovers also benefitted MTSU under the basket. TJ Dunans had chances for inbound steals and offensive rebounds off of free-throws, but MTSU often found ways to get the ball back, whether by Dunans stepping out of bounds or giving the ball up on a steal.
The Tigers head back to Auburn Arena on Tuesday, December 15th for an 8:00 PM game against Mercer. With SEC play looming around the corner (Tennessee comes to town on January 2nd), it'll be crucial for Auburn to rebound from today's loss and come out hungry for a win on Tuesday. The Tigers will also travel to Xavier on Saturday, December 19th. Two wins in the next two games, while challenging, are not impossible, and could be a huge difference as Auburn continues to drive in Bruce Pearl's second season.
War Damn Eagle.