Auburn lost last night for just the third time this season. It’s February. That in itself is one hell of an accomplishment. Honestly, I feel bad about feeling disappointed simply because I would’ve probably driven a bulldozer through Denny Chimes if you told me that we’d be 21-3 on February 8th. Oh, and we’re still in first place in the SEC, although that lead has dwindled just a tad and Tennessee’s coming on strong.
Let’s look at some of the particulars from last night. It’ll help you feel better.
First of all, Bryce Brown was out for roughly three quarters of the ballgame.
Bryce Brown went into the locker room with what appears to be a right shoulder injury. Looked to be in some discomfort on the bench.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) February 8, 2018
He scored seven points in fifteen minutes of action, and without him, Auburn lost its most effective three-point shooter. That’s a big key for what the Tigers like to do.
In that vein, Auburn went just 7-21 from downtown, with Anfernee McLemore going 2-2, Mustapha Heron hitting just 2-8, Desean Murray 1-2, and Jared Harper 1-4. You could tell that Harper and Heron were pressing just a bit with Brown out, and neither one is as good from the perimeter. Contrast this to the last two home games, where Auburn hit 31 combined threes. Brown’s presence likely gives Auburn more than enough to win by multiple possessions.
On a positive note, Auburn did a fantastic job of getting to the line, and (more importantly) hitting foul shots when they needed them. The Tigers went 21-24 from the free throw stripe, and sank key shots when they absolutely needed them. Horace Spencer’s two foul shots to tie the game at 80 with ten seconds left were as clutch as can be.
Also, let’s not forget that Auburn trailed by 17 points barely a minute into the second half. A&M came right out of the locker room and strung together three buckets in a row, and I thought we were done. It looked that way, but this team never quit. Never quit at all! They battled back and took the lead (thanks to some angry, angry play from Heron), and fell short without their best player. I can’t fault them for that.
"We lost the game because they scored 81 points, they shot a great percentage, they got the ball inside and they beat us. The calls at the end didn't lose us the game." https://t.co/WiCZ9bQXD8— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) February 8, 2018
“The calls at the end didn’t lose us the game.”
You’re right, Coach. They didn’t. But they sure didn’t help. I won’t whine about the officiating, mainly because we went to the line a ton and made it count. It evened out with some calls that happened to go A&M’s way down the stretch, and the officials inserted themselves for lengthy reviews and they blew the whistle on every single crucial play in the final two minutes. They weren’t biased toward one team or the other, but it needs to be more efficient and more laissez faire.
And hey, it could’ve been much worse. We could’ve lost to St. John’s at home. All in all, this is a hugely forgivable loss. Remember when Texas A&M was ranked in the top five? Remember when they destroyed West Virginia to open the season? That’s the team we saw last night. They were gutted by injuries and suspensions to start SEC play, and it showed. We got the full strength Aggies last night and we had to do it while hampered ourselves (as if we haven’t been playing shorthanded all year). A&M is built for a good tournament run — solid post play, guards that can explode for 20+, and an upperclassmen-laden team. When the Aggies roll through much of the rest of their schedule, people will see this as a good loss. Because of their shortcomings through January, they won’t get the high seed they deserve, but they’ll make the tournament hell for a top seed.
Now, it’s back on the road for a get-right game against Georgia. Georgia lost to Vanderbilt last night, and they’ve taken a mighty step back since that second half at Auburn Arena. It’s almost as if Mustapha Heron’s dunk broke the Bulldogs, and they haven’t been able to crawl back through the doggy door since. We need the win, though. Can’t afford to go 0-2 in this week, especially since other teams in the top ten have lost. Let’s hold serve. War Eagle!