Career nights. That's what Bruce Pearl felt Auburn would need last week against Arkansas, and that's what they got. Career nights is what the Tigers got tonight, too, and from different players no less.
Tonight was Jordon Granger and T.J. Lang's night. Granger picked up a double-double. T.J. Lang was knocking down threes. Horace Spencer was getting blocks. All of this happened on a night when Cinmeon Bowers saw limited minutes after picking up two very early fouls in the first half and Tyler Harris didn't play at all due to a concussion.
The announcers keyed in on one very good point. The loss of Canty really was a net positive for this team as they were better able to start playing as a team. The teamwork has been so much better over the last few games. That's especially been true since the Arkansas game showed them what they're capable of.
Auburn jumped out to a nice lead in spite of those Bowers fouls and then just continued to build on the lead through the first half. They went into halftime with a 39-23 lead, the biggest half-time lead (and maybe the biggest lead at all) of the season for Auburn.
UGA didn't fold, though. The Dawgs kept fighting and fighting hard. They cut the lead to less than ten points on a number of occasions in the second half as they started out-rebounding the Tigers, something Auburn was getting more of in the first half. They pulled within 6 points at the 3:30 mark and it really stayed close for the remainder of the game as Auburn got lucky with some bad UGA shots and had some great play by people like T.J. Dunans.
Some great rebounding under the basket for Auburn and the Tigers were able to hold on even with some bad clock management and some clutch shots by UGA. The Bulldogs got the game within 3 with 23 seconds to play after T.J. Dunans missed the second of two free throws and the Dawgs hit a quick three. Dunans made up for it on the next possession as he drained both free throws to get it back to 5 points.
UGA picked up a foul and drained two to get it back to three with 15.9 seconds remaining. Dunans took the inbound and was fouled again, knocking them both down. For some reason Dunans fouled a UGA player less than 2 seconds later, giving the Dawgs new life. They drained their two, and Auburn got the ball to Bryce Brown with Dunans having fouled out. Brown drained one of two, and UGA killed a three to make it a one point game with 6 seconds to go.
Brown drove the ball down the court for three seconds before being fouled again. This time, he knocked them both down so that it was a three point game with 3.8 seconds left and one final chance for Georgia to send it to overtime. UGA was fouled on the floor with 1.6 seconds left, meaning UGA needed some help. They missed the first free throw, though, which sealed the deal for the Tigers to sneak out of Auburn Arena with the win.
Career Nights. I've already mentioned it, but what a night for Granger and Lang. Lang finished with 21 points. Granger finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double. Auburn needed career nights from players to get the win, and they got just that.
Horace Spencer the Rim Defender has really been on his shot-blocking game over the last few contests. He picked up another four blocks, tonight. He's really starting to find his game, although he still has some foul issues. 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, and 9 points was his stat line for the night, but he also fouled out with 15.9 seconds to play. I said it back after the UAB game, but this is a special young man who will hopefully develop even further over the next offseason.
Finishing the Game. With the lead Auburn had, this game going down to the final seconds would usually be unacceptable. It's a little more palatable when you think of what all Auburn was missing tonight, but still frustrating. After dominating the first half, you hate to see the game come down to the wire. There will be more weapons available in the future, but tonight fatigue got to the ones on the floor. I'm proud of them for holding on to the end.
Auburn will be back in action Saturday for the second edition of the Iron Bowl of Basketball. There are three games left, and the Tigers' final home game of the regular season will be next week against Texas A&M. It's been a rough season, but wow have their been some flashes of the things to come.