Last December, the Auburn basketball team was feeling pretty good about its selves headed into the Mike Slive Invitational. With wins over Washington, Xavier, and Arizona, plus a respectable showing against Duke, the team was showing that winning the SEC the season prior wasn’t a fluke.
Sitting at 8-1, the schedule wasn’t lightening up, though. A neutral site game awaited the team in Birmingham against the Blazers, and dates with NC State in Raleigh and Murray State (and Ja Morant) at home were due up within the week.
The game with UAB, as mentioned, was to take place as a part of the Mike Slive Invitational, honoring the late SEC commissioner. Held at the BJCC, the game drew the biggest crowd for a college basketball game in the state of Alabama since 1992.
Total Points: 31
Date: December 15th, 2018
Opponent: vs UAB
Final Score: Auburn 75, UAB 71 (OT)
If my memory serves me correct, this was an ugly game. And I have to rely on my memory, because this game was on CBSSN meaning Auburn couldn’t put out a highlight video like they’ve done for every other game. Stupid CBS.
Anyways, looking at the box score confirms my memory. This was a night in which Bryce went 0-6 from 3 and finished with just 5 points, and the team as a whole was just 4-22 from 3-point range. The first half ended with a score of 28-27 Auburn, but that one point lead came from Jared Harper picking up five of his eight first half points in the last minute.
The second half wasn’t much better. Auburn turned in one of it’s worst shooting nights of the season in the spacious BJCC, which in hindsight might’ve been an indicator of things to come. Both teams struggled, with the largest lead coming about halfway through the second half when UAB’s Zack Bryant put up a layup just before the under 12 minute timeout.
I think I have the next sequence of events right, but it’s hard to parse out just from the play-by-play alone. On the layup, Jared Harper was called for a foul. Before the shot fell, Auburn ALSO got whistled for a goaltending, sending Bruce into a frenzy at the refs. The goaltending stretched the lead to 7 for UAB, and with Auburn’s offensive woes, the situation was looking dire. As Bruce was chirping at the refs, someone from the UAB bench (an assistant coach presumably?) was heckling Bruce, causing Bruce to fire some words off at the UAB bench. This brought UAB coach Robert Ehsan into the argument, drawing technical fouls on both head coaches. I remember sitting in the Arena wondering what in the world was going on in this game, and I’m still not sure I have it exactly right.
With the BJCC loud with boos, Auburn was able to crawl back into the game over the next few minutes, squarely on the back of Jared Harper. In the final five minutes alone, Jared had 11 points and threw up an oop for Chuma Okeke, but with a chance to ice the game to go up 64-60, he missed his first free throw of the night. Of course, UAB would go down and hit a three with 10 seconds remaining to send it to overtime.
But that wasn’t the end of Jared’s night. In overtime, he was ice cold, hanging another 10 points on the Blazers. He would finish the night going FIFTEEN OF SIXTEEN from the charity stripe, 31 points in total, and 21 points in the last five minutes of regulation and overtime.
Since I don’t have a highlight video, I’m just going to share the post-game hype video from Auburn.
Guys, we’re stupidly close to tipoff. There’s a scrimmage tonight, and I’ll live tweet it from @CollegeAndMag since I’ll be in attendance and it’s not on TV. We’re so close.