Hey, in case you missed it, Auburn destroyed one of the bluest blue bloods in college basketball on the way to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2003.
Auburn 89, Kansas 75. And it wasn’t nearly that close. When — in true Auburn fan fashion — we’re fretting over our 26-point halftime lead dipping below 20 points, you know that we may have arrived as a basketball school.
There’s a lot to get to, so we’ll just start with this blanket statement —
I’LL PUT IT ON RECORD THAT WAS THE BEST HALF OF AUBURN BASKETBALL IN RECENT MEMORY
Seriously, look at the situation and the numbers.
- Auburn was playing a true blue blood in the Kansas Jayhawks.
- Auburn got blitzed in this round last year, losing by 31 to Clemson.
- The Tigers barely escaped New Mexico State on Thursday.
- It would be Auburn’s 6th game in ten days.
Those things above spelled trouble. We looked shaky and uneven after the slim win over the Aggies in the opening round, and it was evident that we were pretty tired playing in the elevation. Couple that with trying to get over last year’s Second Round hump, and there were a ton of reasons to be nervous about this meeting with the Jayhawks.
Now, let’s look at what Auburn did in the first half:
- 55.6% shooting overall
- 9-17 (53%) shooting from three-point range
- 26 fastbreak points (just 1 for Kansas)
- Bryce Brown: 5-6 from three, 17 points overall, and sole possession of second place all-time in career three-pointers in SEC history. He’s got 372 now, passing Shan Foster’s 367 early on in the first half.
- Jared Harper: 14 points on 5-9 shooting and this dunk —
Meanwhile, Kansas shot less than 30%, hit only one three, and turned the ball over 8 times on the way to a 51-25 halftime deficit.
‘This is our night tonight,’ says Auburn fan Charles Barkley in the studio for the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament game against Kansas. pic.twitter.com/CY7qLMxlPT— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) March 24, 2019
That was my face too, Chuck.
After the intermission, Kansas stepped up offensively, and started off really hot. They started 7-7 from the floor, but even with that streak, Auburn still held strong.
We're 8 minutes into the second half and Auburn doesn't have a defensive rebound.— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) March 24, 2019
The lead has grown by 1.
Auburn weathered the run that Kansas put together, and answered it with strong play on both ends of the floor. Overall, the second half was a bit nerve-wracking, but not overly stressful. When you’re sweating the size of your double-digit lead in the NCAA Tournament, you could have worse problems. This win is just part of the best streak in recent Auburn history. The Tigers have won ten straight games, including six straight postseason games.
In the last 10 days, Auburn basketball has won six postseason games.— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) March 24, 2019
It had only won seven postseason games in the past 13 years combined.
It’s a cause for celebration.
Scene at Sky Bar in the final moments of Auburn’s win over Kansas. pic.twitter.com/HTP6veUAF4— Sara Palczewski (@SaraPalczewski) March 24, 2019
Toomer’s Corner THIS VERY SECOND pic.twitter.com/mDcJgcpaTv— Emily Enfinger (@EmilyEnfinger) March 24, 2019
I think the most amazing thing about this is that Bruce Pearl completely out-coached Bill Self. I know that Kansas has had a rough year, but the talent discrepancy is still real, and Auburn had those five-stars struggling to breathe in the first half.
Auburn vs. Kansas starting recruiting ranking.— E2C Network: Auburn Athletic Podcasts (@E2C_Network) March 24, 2019
Dedric Lawson - 5⭐️
Quentin Grimes - 5⭐️
Devon Dotson - 5⭐️
Ochai Agbaji - 3⭐️
David McCormack - 5⭐️
Bryce Brown - 3⭐️
Jared Harper - 4⭐️
Anfernee McLemore - 4⭐️
Malik Dunbar - 3⭐️
Chuma Okeke - 5⭐️
Blueblood < Auburnblood
Bill Self used all but one of his timeouts within the first few minutes of the game as his guys were getting blitzed up and down the court.
For these reasons and more, that was the best half of basketball that Auburn’s played in decades, and the Tigers got their 28th win of the season. With one more, they’d tie the 1998-99 team with 29 wins in a single season, but it’ll have to come against a tough opponent. As of this writing, 1-seed North Carolina’s leading 9-seed Washington at halftime, with the winner advancing to take on Auburn in Kansas City. Now, Auburn already rocked the Huskies in November, but they’re a better team now. If we get to see UNC, then the Tigers will just be stepping further down the blue blood road in this NCAA Tournament.
It’s been 16 years since Auburn last reached this point in the postseason, and that year run ended with a 79-78 loss to the eventual national champions. I think this Auburn team is better than that one was, and when we see them take the court again, they’ll be fully rested. Instead of having six games in ten days, it’ll be two games in the last ten days.
Right now, Auburn may be the most impressive team through to the Sweet Sixteen along with Purdue, who rolled Villanova last night. The Tigers are a draw that nobody wants to see on the other sideline, and that’s a completely foreign feeling for many Auburn fans.
As long as Bruce Pearl is on campus, that feeling is here to stay. War Eagle, everyone.