South Carolina made it rain on a cold night at Auburn Arena, and Auburn's ball control was severely lacking.
Turnovers have been plaguing Auburn's offense lately, so naturally that trend continued tonight against South Carolina (14-0, 1-0 SEC). A thin bench due to injuries, early foul trouble, and a thunderstorm of three-pointers from the Gamecocks proved too much for the Tigers (7-6, 1-1 SEC) to overcome in an 81-69 loss at Auburn Arena.
It really seemed like the officiating favored South Carolina until the 12-minute mark—that's when South Carolina was called for its first foul of the game. Auburn didn't do themselves any favors, though, as they committed 15 turnovers on their way to a season-low first-half points (30). Meanwhile, South Carolina couldn't stop hitting threes. They made six in the first half alone, and five of those were consecutive within the last ten minutes of the first half.
Foul trouble bit Auburn early. Horace Spencer earned two within the first five minutes of play, which brought on Cinmeon Bowers. Later, Bowers got called for tussling with South Carolina's Chris Silva at the free throw line. While there were many questionable calls against Auburn (and seemingly very few in general against South Carolina), it still came down to the Gamecocks' making it rain from three with Auburn giving them countless opportunities to do so with turnovers.
Auburn certainly looked better, but South Carolina was still too powerful.
Horace Spencer picked up his third foul within the first two minutes of the second half, but Auburn gained some steady momentum to get them within five points (59-54) at the 10:48 mark. Jordon Granger and Bryce Brown made threes and Tyler Harris provided a boost under the rim, but it was still a turnover-heavy night for the Tigers as they ended the night with 21 total, which is a season high. Cinmeon Bowers was very quiet tonight, which also hurt the Tigers in the paint. Kareem Canty earned 21 points, but was forced to take several off-the-mark three point shots. Auburn has lived and died by the three this season, so with Bryce Brown fouling out early and Canty only going 5/12 from behind the arc, the Tigers couldn't find an answer to South Carolina's lights-out shooting performance.
Aggressive play inside the paint by South Carolina's Michael Carrera and Laimonas Chatkevicius kept Auburn's comeback at bay late in the second half while Sindarius Thornwell continued to make threes. He ended the night with 22 total points and seven assists. Carrera earned 12 points, which is only slightly less than his average coming into tonight's game (12.4).
Water Cooler Talking Points:
1. Despite the injuries, Auburn has to find help for Kareem Canty.
Canty had another 20+ point game tonight, but his three percentage was still less than ideal (just below 42%). On Saturday, Bryce Brown proved he had some range—which he showed tonight, as well—but Auburn has to find a way to get better, more consistent play beneath the basket for Auburn to survive a tough SEC schedule of play. Cinmeon Bowers only had three points tonight. That's three points, total...and it was off a three pointer (1/2 for the night). It was almost as if he completely forgot his fundamentals when it came to layups. No doubt Bruce Pearl and the coaching staff will be working on that before Auburn takes on Missouri this Saturday.
The good news is that Tyler Harris continues to get better. He had 22 points and six rebounds tonight and even made one from three. Auburn's bench remains thin, however. Bryce Brown was the only bright spot outside the starting five with 11 total points and five rebounds before fouling out around the 3:13 mark in the second half.
2. Auburn Arena did okay tonight, despite the winter break.
One of Auburn's biggest advantages is its home-court atmosphere. For those who were at the game, it probably could've been a bit louder, but kudos to those who showed up and yelled tonight. Once classes start back, no doubt the Arena will be bouncin' again.
In the meantime, y'all need to get on @Clintau24's level:
Seriously. This was most impressive.
3. South Carolina snapped a six-game regular season losing streak to Auburn...
...since the 2010-2011 season. This is one streak I really wish we could've held on to. Hopefully we'll see these fools again in SEC Tournament play. They also remain one of only two undefeated NCAA teams so far this season (the other being SMU).
Auburn heads to Columbia on Saturday to face Missouri at 8:00 pm CT. We'll have your preview and recap here as usual.
War Damn Eagle.