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Tigers Fall at Home, Lose to A&M 81-80

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Auburn gives gutsy effort without Bryce Brown.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn hit only seven threes, couldn’t stop Texas A&M in the paint, lost Bryce Brown late in the first half, and still came within inches of beating what’s essentially a top five team at home.

Texas A&M beat the Tigers 81-80 at Auburn Arena tonight to end Auburn’s perfect record at home this season. With the defeat, Auburn now stands at 21-3 overall, and 9-2 in the SEC.

This game began hot from both sides, but it quickly became evident that the Aggies would have a definite advantage on the inside thanks to Robert Williams and Tyler Davis. Both players towered over Auburn’s frontcourt and found an effortless path to the basket over and over again. However, the Tigers were unable to stop TJ Starks and his 16 first half points as they fell behind 46-36 at halftime.

Out of the intermission, A&M broke the lead open even more, going up by as much as 17 early on before Auburn recomposed itself and started to chip away at the deficit. Mustapha Heron took over, scoring from the perimeter, at the rim, and at the foul line. Altogether, Heron notched 28 points to lead all scorers, and put the team on his back during part of the comeback run.

Auburn eventually completely overcame the big hole, and took a 69-67 lead on Jared Harper’s layup with 7:43 to play, but A&M quickly equalized. Admon Gilder’s three put the Aggies up 80-74 with a little over two minutes to go, but Auburn took the time to erase that little margin thanks to a Heron layup, then four good foul shots from Harper and Horace Spencer. Spencer’s two makes came with ten seconds to play, and on the ensuing offensive possession for A&M, Chuma Okeke was called for a controversial blocking foul, and Duane Wilson hit one of two free throws with 3.5 seconds left. Heron’s last second 40-footer clanked off the iron and A&M escaped with the win.

Auburn will have a chance to redeem the week with a road trip to Georgia this Saturday, with tipoff coming at 2:30 PM CST. The Tigers still hold a one-game edge on Tennessee, plus the tiebreaker, with seven games left to play in the conference.