First, it was a lot of fun. Then it wasn't. Then it was again.
Auburn jumped out to a big lead in this game with a 38-23 halftime lead. They did it through a vicious defense. They were also helped by the timidity of the Texas Tech's big men, but we'll take what we can get.
The second half saw the Tigers build a 19 point lead before the first media timeout. Then, the shooting went cold, the fouls came more often, and the Red Raiders slowly chipped away with each passing minute.
The game came down to the last second as Jared Harper split free throws on two possessions and Texas Tech got the ball back down by two with 11 seconds on the clock. They drove the lane, but LaRon Smith had a monster block to ruin the scoring opportunity. Tech recovered the ball with around 2 seconds left on the clock at half court and threw up a desperation shot that sailed wide.
With that, Auburn ended Day 1 in Cancun with a 67-65 win over a very experienced and talented Big XII team. The Tigers will face the winner of #17 Purdue and Utah State tomorrow night at 7:30pm Central for the championship.
Things I Think:
Auburn Basketball is... Good? Look, I don't want to go telling tales out of school, but Auburn is 4-0 and just defeated another good team. I'm trying to temper expectations, but, hey, wow. Bruce Pearl has got himself a squad, here.
Learning how to finish. I don't know if Auburn got overconfident in the 2nd half, complacent, or what, but there is no reason to give up a 19 point lead in the final 16 minutes of the game. Auburn is going to have to learn how to finish in situations like that.
The freshman continue to produce. Auburn's three leading scorers tonight? Mustapha Heron with 15, Danjel Purifoy with 11, and Jared Harper with 10. Horace Spencer was right behind them with 9, but those 9 were all (I think) in the first half. If we can ever get Spencer to be consistent with scoring, he could be a huge weapon.
Auburn can win even when the 3s aren't falling. The Tigers were taking 3 point shots and having trouble hitting them at times, tonight. They finished only 30% from beyond the arc. They still won, and against a very good team. That's a promising sign for Auburn. A very promising sign. Of course, it comes with almost blowing a big lead, but still.
As I've said before, missing free throws is going to cost Auburn a game at some point. Texas Tech was 14-17 from the line. Auburn was 13-20. If Jared Harper hits both sets in the final minute, we're not talking about LaRon Smith's block. Auburn isn't necessarily horrible at free throws, but more consistency will save them - and us - a lot of heartburn in the final minutes.