Xavier head coach Chris Mack likely left Auburn Arena last December and circled today's match-up while he was still on the plane.
It worked. His Musketeers (11-0) got the best of Auburn (5-3) to the tune of 85-61. Auburn started the game cold, and once 10th-ranked Xavier smelled blood, it was hard for the Tigers to answer. Here's the run-down:
Auburn won the tip-off but couldn't score on two trips to the basket. Xavier went on a 12-4 scoring run before the first media time-out at the 14:31 mark, and despite Auburn getting within nine points to close the first half, the song remained the same for most of the game. Kareem Canty paced Auburn with 25 points (including 15 from behind the arc), four rebounds, and four assists, but it wasn't nearly enough. Canty is doing some amazing things this season, but without a supporting cast staying consistent for 40 minutes, he can't be expected to carry the team once conference play gets going.
Xavier played consistent ball the entire game to build momentum (they even got a lucky roll off the top of the backboard for a bucket early in the first half), and the Tigers really struggled against the Musketeers' 1-3-1 defense. A key second-half stat from @JayGTate illustrated what killed Auburn down the stretch:
Second-chance points: Xavier 17, Auburn 0.— Jay G. Tate (@JayGTate) December 19, 2015
Also in the second half, we witnessed a scrappy back-and-forth Auburn's TJ Dunans and Xavier's J.P. Macura. Even the announcers noted that Macura has often gotten under opponents' skin during games, and Dunans became the unlucky recipient today. A mic'd up Bruce Pearl even told Dunans to go "thank the official" after only being charged with a double foul. Both Dunans (10 points) and Macura (4 points) eventually fouled out before the end of the game.
Xavier's Jalen Reynolds led the Musketeers in scoring with 18 points. Also among the starting five, Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett both scored 13 points. It was Xavier's bench, however, that proved its worth at crucial moments throughout the game with Sean O'Mara and James Farr contributing 10 points and 12 points, respectively.
Auburn's Cinmeon Bowers finished the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds, which earned him another double-double on the season.
Here's your office chatter for Monday (unless you're already in Christmas vacation mode, in which case I say congratulations and Merry Christmas):
Water Cooler Talking Points
1. Xavier wanted revenge, and they earned it.
Chris Mack reportedly called the loss to Auburn last season one of the worst of his career. I'm 100% certain Bruce Pearl let his players know about it before tip-off today, but since both coaches were mic'd up on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, we actually got to hear it every ten minutes from Mack in the team huddle. I have to say—it's a testament to your program when the 10th-ranked team in the country wants to beat you that badly. Credit to Xavier, though, because they came out hungry.
Granted, Auburn dealt with all kind of injuries and adversity today—TJ Lang wasn't 100%, Shamsid-Deen left the game with continuing shoulder problems, and one of our best players was done for the day with 12 minutes left in the second half. However, with only a few weeks before conference play, Auburn has to find a way to answer big momentum swings from the competition moving forward.
On the bright side...
Auburn faced a better, more physical team and didn't take advantage of the few open shots they saw but there's no quit in this team.— Stephen D. Wadsworth (@SDWesq) December 19, 2015
But speaking of fouls...
2. Tyler Harris is getting into foul trouble way too early...
...and it's killing us. Harris had four fouls inside 18 minutes in the second half, which resulted in some bench time. He eventually fouled out at the 12:07 mark with only four points and four rebounds. Harris had recorded three straight double-doubles before today, so it's no secret that Auburn can't afford to play without him. Bruce Pearl and the coaching staff need to develop a solution with Harris before conference play begins in January.
3. Tahj Shamsid-Deen might be done.
After treating his shoulder problems this summer, it seems like Shimmy might not ever get back to 100%, which is heartbreaking. He left the first half with another shoulder injury after driving hard to the basket inside seven minutes. The kid just can't catch a break. @AubExpat said it best:
My heart hurts so badly for Tahj Shamsid-Deen. He's got everything he needs in his head and chest to succeed, but is betrayed by his body.— AubExpat (@AubExpat) December 19, 2015
It's a real shame for such a fighter. A healthy Shamsid-Deen provides Auburn with a much-needed boost on both sides of the court. I'm not a doctor, so at this point, I don't know what the next step is for him. Based on Twitter chatter and the look on the guy's face when he left the game, it doesn't look promising. Wishing the best for him no matter what.
Auburn heads to Hawaii for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. They'll face New Mexico on Tuesday at 1:30 PM CT. Mele Kalikimaka, y'all.
War Damn Eagle.