Auburn bowed out of the SEC Tournament with just one game, falling by eighteen points to Alabama in the quarterfinals. It was a rough finish, as the Tigers led by ten at halftime, then endured a 28-3 run from the Tide out of halftime and never recovered. Collin Sexton was brilliant, with 31 points, and the Tigers could not seem to get anything to fall in the second half, taking more than ten minutes after halftime to bury a shot.
It was the worst game that Auburn’s played all year. For the first time this season, Auburn got down by a big margin and failed to come back. In the first loss against Alabama, the Tigers had a chance to tie or win late. Auburn trailed by double digits to A&M and South Carolina, and came back to either take the lead or pull within a few points. Against Florida, it was a close game throughout.
After about the first five minutes of the second half yesterday, it was over. There are two different ways to look at this -- optimistic and pessimistic.
Look, we already won the SEC, and anything else after that was gravy. We got the banner and the trophy, and we did it with pretty much everything going against us. The reason many people are pretty upset after yesterday’s loss has a lot to do with the opponent. If we got blasted by Kentucky or Arkansas, we’d probably shrug our shoulders and look ahead to the tournament. Now, we’re thinking “Oh great, now Alabama’s good at basketball”.
Bryce Brown clearly still isn’t over his injury, having to sit out portions of the game yesterday with a heating pad on his shoulder, and so maybe having a full week of rest will help him get fully healthy for the real tournament. I don’t know if anyone expects Auburn to go far in the NCAA Tournament with the adversity we’ve faced, but we’d at least like to win a game and have a decent showing. With the rest of almost a full week, we may get fully healthy to do just that.
It seems like over the past two weeks, Auburn’s gotten all of the bad shots out of the system. How much longer can it take to get things working away from home? Obviously, we’re a totally different team at Auburn Arena than anywhere else, but in the NCAA Tournament everyone will be playing far from home. Even footing there.
And finally, after the pressure of having to win to take the SEC regular season title, I almost feel as if there was still an emotional letdown yesterday, despite having several days off after the finale against South Carolina. Couple that with the fact that Alabama couldn’t miss, and we couldn’t make a bucket, and the Tigers got tight.
Yesterday didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and now we have time to get right in time for the real tournament.
Man, did we look bad in the second half. It wasn’t just a problem with hitting shots, it was a problem with getting back on defense, completing routine passes, not leaving Collin Sexton wide open after he already tore us up in the first half. Alabama is a team that can beat you by twenty, or lose to you by twenty, and for the first half it looked like the latter was in the crystal ball.
Bryce Brown clearly isn’t right still, and who knows how long it’ll take to get him there. After seeing what we did with him on the floor yesterday, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea to just sit him until he was fully healthy. But we couldn’t do that, because we just don’t have anyone else. Bruce Pearl mentioned that we’re not the kind of team right now that can turn to someone else if we’ve got a guy having a bad day.
With our paper-thin depth, we have to deal with it. End of story. We can’t put in a walk-on and hope for the best, we have to figure out a way to shoot out way out of it. If a guy’s playing poor defense, we have to leave him out there. We have to hope that the other team doesn’t identify the weak spot and take advantage.
And if you really want to go full nega-barner, then why in the world does it seem like every team has a guy go Career Day on us? John Petty the first time around, Robert Williams/Tyler Davis for A&M, Frank Booker at Colonial Life Arena, Kevaughn Allen down in Gainesville, and Collin Sexton yesterday. Someone explodes against us every time out lately, and it seems like our usual guys can’t get anything going. We’re limping to the finish while other teams are getting stronger, and that’s not good.
Now, with the loss yesterday, we may be lucky to hold onto that 3-seed possibility, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Either way, we’re going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in fifteen years, and I couldn’t be more than excited. Remember who lost in the first round of the SEC Tournament last year? South Carolina. Then they went to the Final Four. There’s a ton of basketball left to be played, folks. Dig in. War Eagle!