December 15, 2018 - Legacy Arena: Birmingham
It’s been said by me many times and I’ll say it yet again: we need the UAB series to kickoff again soon! It may not be this year due to the obvious but hopefully no later than next season we will see the Tigers and Blazers back on the court together. This game got really chippy and that’s probably one reason we didn’t see this matchup last year.
It was a great atmosphere inside Legacy Arena as Ryan Sterritt and I made the trip to Birmingham to catch this one in person. It was also a chance to welcome Danjel Purifoy back to the lineup after missing all of the previous season and 9 games due to suspension.
Anfernee McLemore got us started with a 3 on the game’s first possession. But the first half was a struggle for the Auburn offense as the Tigers shot just 9-26 overall in the 1st half and neither team led by more than 5 points at any point. The Tigers scoring was spread out as the Tigers first 8 baskets were scored by 8 different players. Jared Harper was the only Tigers player with more than 1 FG and they didn’t come until the waning moments of the first half. Harper’s 2nd basket, a 3 with 30 seconds left in the half gave Auburn a 28-27 lead which they took to the locker room.
Auburn’s offense was still stagnant in the 2nd half and the Blazers went up 45-38 with about 11:30 to go. The Tigers didn’t have any momentum and were flat on offense. The crowd had been taken out of it a bit as well. And then the chirping started from the UAB Bench. During the Under 12 timeout, multiple technical fouls were handed out as words were exchanged by both benches. Quite frankly, it’s the spark Auburn needed.
Over the next 2:30, Auburn would outscore UAB 9-2 to tie the game at 47.
Coming down the stretch in a low scoring game though, Auburn went to Jared. He had just scored 2 points in the 2nd half and 10 on the game with 5 1⁄2 minutes to go but Harper was about to put the team on his back. He made a layup to put Auburn ahead 52-49. A few possessions later after knocking down a pair of free throws the previous possession, Harper got into the paint again for another layup to put Auburn ahead 56-54 with 3:36 left. Harper knocked down 2 more free throws and Auburn closed an 8-0 run with a feed from Harper to Chuma Okeke.
Auburn led at this point 60-54 with a little more than a minute left and were close to getting out of Birmingham with a W. But not so fast. UAB would hit a 3 on their next possession and then foul Jared who knocked down 2 free throws. Another UAB on the next possession would make it 62-60. Harper was fouled again but went just 1-2 from the line giving the Blazers a chance to tie. With about 10 seconds left, the Blazers were able to cash it in knocking down a 3 to tie the game at 63. Harper missed a 3 that would have won it and we had bonus basketball in Birmingham.
Harper scored 11 of his 13 2nd half points in the final 5 1⁄2 minutes of regulation. But he was even better in Overtime.
Jared would hit 2 free throws on the first possession of overtime and the Tigers never trailed again. With Auburn up just 1, Anfernee McLemore hit a big shot with about 1:45 left in OT to put Auburn up 69-66. Jared would take care of the rest making a layup on the next possession and then 4 free throws in the final minute to finish with a career high 31 points. He scored 21 of those points in the final 10 minutes of the game. He did that despite just 7-19 shooting from the field because he was 15-16 from the free throw line. Chuma Okeke had 11 points and 6 rebounds. Danjel Purifoy played 7 minutes (all in the 1st half) and scored 2 points in his first game in about 21 months.
Here are the highlights!