March 5, 2019 - Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Over the course of any season, particularly one as special as this Auburn Basketball team experienced, there are defining moments that people will hang onto for years. What happened in the 2nd half of the game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on March 5, 2019 is one of those defining moments.
As we entered the final week of the regular season, the Tigers had earned 20 wins and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament after wins over Georgia and Mississippi State.
For Alabama, this was a win they desperately needed as they sat squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
Early on, the desperate team came out on fire.
Chuma Okeke would get the game’s first basket a minute in but Alabama would go on a 12-0 run to take a 12-2 3:25 into the game. But Bruce trusted his group and Jared Harper would knock down a 3 and Okeke’s second basket allowed the Tigers to weather the early storm and trailed 12-7 at the first TV timeout.
Auburn couldn’t get any closer than 5 most of the first half as Alabama continued to stretch the lead back to double digits through the games first 20 minutes. Alabama would take a 34-23 lead into the locker room.
But as Avery Johnson would say, “It was a Tale of Two Halves.”
Auburn would cut the lead down to 7 in the early moments of the 2nd half thanks a moment from #ClassicMalik.
Despite this, Alabama responded once again and Auburn got T’d up going into the Under 16 timeout after a foul call on Chuma Okeke. After that possession, Alabama led 43-31.
But this resilient group continued to battle and stay in the game and if anything, the T fueled Auburn.
After 3 free throws to cut the deficit to 9, Jared Harper made a layup with 13 minutes to go and Chuma Okeke tipped the inbounds pass to himself and calmly knocked a 3-pointer down in the corner. Suddenly, it was a 4 point game. Game on!
On the next possession, Malik Dunbar would convert a tough basket in the paint while drawing a foul. He would make his free throw and the 3-point play cut a 12 point Alabama lead down to 1.
After Alabama scored, Dunbar would tie the game at 45 with a 3 pointer with 10:51 to go. After a turnover by Alabama, the Tigers would take their first lead since being up 2-0 on a jumper in the paint from J’Von McCormick. And a dunk from Anfernee McLemore off a beautiful feed from Okeke put Auburn ahead 49-45 with 9:21 to go.
Auburn would go 5 minutes without a basket until that dude Bryce Brown came up clutch. His 3-pointer, only the 2nd of the game for him gave Auburn a 55-52 lead with 4:21 to go. Herbert Jones scored on the other end and we went into the Under 4 timeout 55-54 Auburn.
Samir Doughty would hit a big 3 with 2:25 to go off a steal from Jared Harper to put Auburn up 60-55. But baskets from Jones and a 3 from Tevin Mack tied the game at 60 with 1:30 to go.
Insert Jared Harper: The Closer
After an Auburn timeout, Jared would drive into the paint for a layup with 1:10 to go to make it 62-60. On the other end, Okeke’s terrific defense would force a turnover from Kira Lewis Jr. and Auburn would get the ball to their closer. Just as he did on the previous possession, Harper drove left and banked another layup off the glass with 18.4 seconds to go. Alabama would attempt to bring the ball up but Samir Doughty intercepted a long pass and was fouled with 12.7 seconds left. Samir would hit both free throws and Alabama would miss a 3 to end their chances of victory.
Here Harper’s 2 layups and Samir’s steal in GIF form:
And with the win over Alabama that meant.....
Auburn completed a sweep of both Alabama and Georgia (while playing both teams twice in the season) for the first time in 52 years!!
Chuma Okeke had 17 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Tigers as his incredible March would lead him to the first round of the NBA Draft. Jared Harper had 16 points. Harper and Okeke were the only guys in double figures but key contributions up and down the lineup were critical in this game, including Malik Dunbar, Bryce Brown and Samir Doughty who had 8, 7, and 7 points respectively.
Auburn doesn’t win that game tonight without Malik Dunbar. His putback dunk really got the run going to get Auburn back in the game. Had a 3-point play and a 3 in that spurt as well. Jared and Chuma will get the accolades as they should, but we need to give Malik some love too.— Jaylin Williams/Simpson Fan Account (@ShootyHoopsWill) March 6, 2019
Here are the highlights!!!
The win moved Auburn’s record to 21-9, and 10-7 in the SEC with a game at home against #5 Tennessee to finish the regular season. I leave you today with this, the team’s postgame hype video after the win. We’re 4 weeks away from tipping off another season! War Eagle to that!