Last year, the Auburn vs UAB game came down to a last-second block by Horace Spencer. Tonight, it came down to Auburn clinging to a lead and attempting free throws as they watched a double-digit lead dwindle in the final minutes of the game.
The game started out sloppily for the Tigers, with the referees calling fouls left and right. The Blazers had the lead for most of the first half and the early part of the second half. The Blazers looked like they might pull away early after going up big late in the first half. Jared Harper almost single-handedly kept the Tigers in it draining multiple three-pointers to get the Tigers back into good shape. At the half, Auburn only trailed by four points.
The second half saw Auburn start to play better on defense while Danjel Purifoy got back into a scoring groove. After being held to just a few points in the first half, he was able to get things going in the 2nd and finished the night with 16 points. Mustapha Heron also finished in double-digits for the 7th straight game (he and Purifoy have scored 10+ in every game this season). It was Jared Harper's night to lead the team, though, ending the game with 21 total points including some free throws in the final minutes that helped the Tigers hang on to the lead.
One thing that helped the Tigers significantly was UAB big man Chris Cokley fouling out with just under 9 minutes to play. He was called for a technical and a normal foul and had to exit much earlier than UAB could afford. Auburn went on a scoring slump in the final minutes of the game, but not having Cokley really hurt the Blazers' ability to take advantage of that dry spell.
Things I'm Thinking
This was a big win in so many ways. Auburn has seen a double-digit lead dwindle down to the final seconds once this season, but this was a true road game in front of a sellout crowd. Auburn still needs to learn how to finish games strong, but this game will do a whole lot for the confidence of the team in their ability to close games out. It's also big just for being the first true road game against a very good team and coming away with the win. There is a lot of momentum now going into Finals Week and a brief time off.
When the threes are dropping, this is a tough team to beat. UAB outshot Auburn from inside the arc and had a better free throw percentage with five more free throws. Where things were really in Auburn's favor was behind the arc. Auburn shot 40.7% from three point range to UAB's 20%. After struggling mightily against Purdue as three-pointers refused to drop, Auburn got back on track in this one. If Bryce Brown can get back to form, this team could be deadly from long range.
I hope you've got some really good shades. Because the future is oh so bright. The freshmen once again led the team in scoring. The supporting cast isn't getting as much credit as they probably should (Dunans, Smith, Johnson, etc), but it's so hard to focus on anything but the flashy things like points scored. They've been playing very well, though, and it's obvious how all-around talented they are.
And things are only going to get better when the Tigers return to the court on December 12th in Madison Square Garden against Boston College. I'm sure you've seen reports of another player joining this team soon. A source of mine (I actually do have some basketball sources) has indicated that the plan (I stress it's still a plan and not a certainty) has been for him to join the team for that game all along. The one thing this team has really lacked is a big man. One may be on the court next week. It will take time for him to gel and adjust to the college game, but big things could definitely be in the future for this team.
War Eagle, y'all!