Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. What are you thankful for?
Personally, I’m thankful for a basketball team that fights, picks each other up, and is fun as hell to watch play on the hardwood.
The Tigers beat Arizona last night 73-57 to finish third at the Maui Invitational after an opening win against Xavier and a six-point loss to Duke. For a team that lives and dies by the three, Auburn didn’t shoot particularly well and still beat two tournament teams from last year and came within a couple shots of knocking off the top team in the country in the semifinals. Overall, the Tigers went 11-35 from deep against Xavier, 11-32 against Duke, and 9-26 last night in the win over Arizona. You can likely chalk that up to an unfamiliar arena and tired legs toward the end, but Auburn won’t shoot that poorly many times this season.
It’s amazing that the Tigers didn’t do well in that regard and still did as well as they did in Maui. If not for the free throw discrepancy in the loss to Duke, Auburn may have been playing Gonzaga yesterday evening for the championship. Instead, this is pretty good too. Auburn will still be a top ten team in the next set of rankings, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers move up with the way they played the Blue Devils.
But last night, it showed exactly how much this team has grown even from last season. Jared Harper was Auburn’s lone all-tournament team representative, and he finished with just 4 points. Instead, Bryce Brown came back from two early fouls, scored 19 points to lead everyone, and set the Auburn all-time career record for three-pointers.
In the down period where the two teams combined for just 50 first half points, it was the bench bunch showing up and helping Auburn out. Malik Dunbar paced the scoring when it was scarce early on, and ended up with what was likely the exclamation point in the victory.
MALIK DUNBAR THAT RIM HAS A FAMILY pic.twitter.com/4Jm5neu6YG— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) November 22, 2018
Malik finished with 15 points on 6-7 shooting to lead the bench players. Auburn outscored Arizona 33-4 in that category, with J’Von McCormick, Horace Spencer, and Austin Wiley all doing a great job in relief to help Auburn pull away in the end.
And if you needed something else to help keep the late night tipoff interesting, you certainly got it in the commentary with Bill Walton spouting off whatever came into his mind.
These are all the amazing things Bill Walton said in the Auburn-Arizona game alone (plus one from the 7th place game). Never change, Bill. pic.twitter.com/hKPbdE4X0A— Thomas Northcutt (@RealTCutt) November 22, 2018
But my biggest takeaway from all of this is that Auburn hung in with the absolute best teams in the country, and they’re still playing shorthanded.
Dec 15 baby— Thedanjelpurifoy3 (@DanjelKevon3) November 22, 2018
If Purifoy had played, I have no doubt that Auburn beats Duke and then gets to take on Gonzaga. Who knows how that would’ve gone, but it would’ve been something special either way.
Auburn gets some time to relax after three games in three days, and they’ll have Saint Peter’s for an easy home win on Wednesday night. Enjoy it, it’s going to be a special season! War Eagle!