Auburn kept it close, but sloppy play down the stretch and a little too much youth and newness gave the game away as the Tigers fell to Arkansas tonight 97-85.
Arkansas got a huge game from its start, including 20+ point efforts from Desi Sills and J.D. Notae, while the Tigers had a more even scoring effort that unfortunately didn’t include much in the paint. Auburn did a fantastic job of shooting, but also missed several opportunities at the foul line, which didn’t translate to success in this close game. Turnovers also spelled doom for the Tigers, as they lost that battle 19-10.
Jamal Johnson had a superb game for the Tigers — his best shooting game of the year by far — with 21 points on 7-11 shooting including 5-7 from downtown, and got great help from Allen Flanigan’s 19 points in the process. Unfortunately, Justin Powell also had his worst scoring night of the year with just 4 points, although he did have 6 rebounds and 9 assists on the evening.
The game began poorly for the Tigers, as they limped out to a 7-0 deficit, but quickly recovered with a flurry from deep. Auburn hit four of their first five threes, taking a 12-11 advantage four minutes into the contest, but allowed another 7-0 run to trail 18-12 at the first timeout of the game. Arkansas boosted the margin to a 25-17 edge a couple minutes later, but Devan Cambridge buried a fastbreak three to cut the lead to 25-20 at the second stoppage.
Arkansas threatened to break the game open with Connor Vanover’s three to establish a 32-22 lead just past the midway point of the first half, but Auburn fought back with a 12-2 run that culminated with Jamal Johnson’s jumper to tie it at 34-34. Auburn wasn’t able to overcome the deficit, and Arkansas pushed ahead again, going up 47-39 in the final seconds before Johnson hit another jumper to finish the half and pull the Tigers within a 47-41 margin at halftime.
Auburn shot 54% in the first half with a 9-17 performance from deep, but went just 2-9 from the line, and Arkansas wasn’t apt to miss much either, hitting 56% of its shots through the first twenty minutes.
Out of the locker room, Arkansas kept Auburn at arm’s length for the first few minutes before back to back threes by Allen Flanigan and Devan Cambridge pulled the Tigers within a point at 53-52 at the 16:30 mark. Again, Auburn couldn’t quite break the Hogs’ serve and take the lead, keeping within a basket or two for the next several minutes. Trailing 74-69 with 8:23 to go, Auburn got a little surge from a Cambridge three and two Flanigan foul shots to tie the game at 74 apiece. Arkansas smothered things on both ends of the court for the next three minutes, and a 6-0 run put them up 80-74 with 4:30 left, and a pair of foul shots from Vanover gave the Hogs an 82-74 lead at the last timeout of the game. Auburn was able to pull within an 84-79 deficit, but Arkansas forced a couple of turnovers down the stretch and the Tigers couldn’t catch up in the final two minutes.