Man, if Auburn didn’t survive by the skin of their teeth last night in Birmingham.
75-71 in overtime, the win came over UAB despite the Tigers doing just about everything wrong.
What’s Auburn been good at this year?
Three-pointers? 4-22 last night.
Forcing turnover after turnover? Just 13 by UAB, with 15 Tiger point scored off of them.
Steals and transition work? Auburn got only 2 steals and scored just 6 points on the fastbreak.
It wasn’t working last night, except for one thing.
Bruce Pearl: "We've got Jared Harper, and they don't."— AUBlog (@AUBlog) December 16, 2018
Harper scored 31 in the win.
Jared Harper was the scoring machine that kept the win preserved for Auburn. First, he kept the Tigers ahead by just enough at the end of regulation with clutch free throws (15-16 on the night) while UAB kept hitting circus threes to pull closer and closer before tying.
Then, in overtime, he scored 10 of Auburn’s 12 points and almost exclusively kept the ball to force the Blazers to send him to the foul line. This comes after a 20-point effort last weekend in the win over Dayton, and while that’s awesome, it is a little troubling.
Auburn simply didn’t have anyone else last night. Call it what you will — a road game, a motivated opponent, whatever — but the shots weren’t falling and nobody else stepped up. Chuma Okeke was the only other Tiger in double figures with 11 points, and the sloppy play almost overshadows Harper’s effort.
One thing’s for certain, though... Bruce Pearl will never fail to be fiery.
Auburn HC Bruce Pearl on the spat with UAB: "Their bench was hollering at me, and I was hollering at the officials. That's what I do."— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) December 16, 2018
Bruce got a technical foul during the course of the game, but UAB head coach Rob Ehsan wasn’t being nice either. Bruce always gets the last laugh, though...
Bruce Pearl on the postgame radio broadcast: "UAB should play like that all the time. They might win more."— Benjamin Wolk (@benjaminwolk) December 16, 2018
One thing that Auburn fans were looking forward to more than anything was the re-insertion of Danjel Purifoy into the lineup, and he checked in early in the first half. However, he was clearly not super tuned into what needed to be done, and his only points came on a layup in the first half. He played just seven minutes total, but he had a rebound and one of Auburn’s only two steals.
Pearl on slowly working Purifoy back into the rotation: "It just needs to continue to evolve. It's a good problem to have."— AUBlog (@AUBlog) December 16, 2018
Whenever Purifoy gets back into the rotation a little more, it’ll truly give Auburn a 10-man rotation, and that’s something that’ll help if we run into the same injury issues we had at the end of the last season.
In the end, Auburn got the win even though they didn’t play the best against a motivated opponent.
When you didn't study but you still ace your final. pic.twitter.com/8v4pmdTDDI— Plainsman Parking Lot (@AUPPL) December 16, 2018
It only gets tougher this week, as the Tigers stay on the road to head to Raleigh for a road tilt with North Carolina State on Wednesday. The Wolfpack are 9-1, just like Auburn, but they haven’t really played anyone aside from #22 Wisconsin (who they lost to). There are some common opponents, however...
NC State beat UNC-Asheville 100-49 and they beat Saint Peter’s 85-57, but they’re one of the best shooting teams in the country (4th nationally at 51.5%/40.7% from three). It’s not going to be easy going against a team like that at their own place. We’ll have more on the Pack coming up this week.