Auburn dropped a hard-fought game tonight against one of the league's top teams. Tonight we saw two contrasting styles. Auburn looked to get open for outside shots. Ole Miss attacked the rim and drove to the basket. Auburn rode some hot shooting outside to a 32-31 halftime lead. Ole Miss got ridiculously hot, shooting 71%, in the second half and pulled away for the win. Auburn hit 55% of their shots in the second half and kept it close but it just wasn't quite enough.
Auburn played well. Five Tigers were in double digits, led by Antoine Mason's 23. The Tigers only had 30 boards, almost half of which belonged to Bowers but neither team missed enough shots for Auburn to have grabbed too many more rebounds (Ole Miss only had 34).
1) Auburn wins and loses with the three.
Auburn doesn't have much of an offensive presence inside. Auburn is at its best when they're moving the ball around the circle to get Harrell an open look from three. Harrell is one of the few basketball players I've ever seen that I wish was more selfish. KT doesn't take bad shots. He doesn't force things often. His patience is a large reason why he's shooting 45% from behind the arc but he's our best scoring threat and we need him to push it a little bit harder.
2) Auburn needs to step up its defense inside.
Ole Miss had a lot of size tonight and kept trying to hammer the ball inside. Stefan Moody was very effective driving the ball inside. I'm not sure what the answer is here. Bowers and Granger can only do so much physically. We can't afford to get them in foul trouble because we just don't have enough depth behind them. I miss the old Auburn M.O. of wide bodies in the lane and physical basketball but we can't do that this year. Granger fouled out midway through the second half and that was when Auburn really lost the game. If Auburn's going to improve this year, it will be because Trayvon Reed gets more reliable. Most likely, we'll have to wait for another year and another recruiting class.
3) Cinmeon Bowers keeps getting better.
Cinmeon Bowers has always been very talented but he keeps getting better. Bowers had his 14th double double tonight and hit another three pointer. He also has been respectable from the free throw line lately, much better than the 45% he averaged early. Most notably, tonight he had six assists. He was four assists away from a triple double. He's gotten really good at throwing bullets across the zone to an open Tiger on the wing. I hope he comes back for his senior year.
So Auburn splits a tricky week 1-1. The Tigers next take the floor Tuesday night at 8 pm against a tough Arkansas team that destroyed a hot Miss State tonight. The game will be on ESPNU. Auburn has proved that it doesn't have any quit in them and won't back down from this challenge. At home, we'll rightfully be underdogs but we'll definitely have a chance.
Until Tuesday, War Eagle y'all!