For the second time in as many road trips, Auburn trailed by double digits in the final several minutes of regulation.
For the second time in as many road trips, Auburn overcame that deficit and scored a much-needed road victory in overtime, beating Arkansas 79-76 tonight at Bud Walton Arena.
Samir Doughty led the charge for Auburn with 23 points, and the Tigers outlasted Mason Jones’ 40 point effort, as he hit the 30-point plateau for the third straight game. Now, Auburn improves to 20-2 overall, and 7-2 in SEC play, while the Hogs drop to 4-5 in conference.
Auburn didn’t deal with the same slow start that they’ve recently faced tonight. Samir Doughty again worked things offensively to begin the game, as he hit two threes in the opening minutes and scored Auburn’s first eight points. The first half — and the game, really — was a matter of runs, where each team strung together buckets in earnest. Auburn took an 18-13 lead on threes from Isaac Okoro and J’Von McCormick, but then gave up a 10-0 run to fall behind 23-18. Samir Doughty’s third three of the night tied the contest at 23, but Arkansas quickly ran out to a 30-23 advantage that was capped off by a Desi Sills three.
Over the final six minutes of the first half, Auburn then created an 11-0 run, which was only stemmed by Mason Jones’ two free throws in the closing minute. After one half of play, the Tigers led 34-32, with Doughty and Jones dueling back and forth.
In the second half, Mason Jones took over for Arkansas. He began the period by tying the game, and quickly became the focal point of the offense. Still, Auburn was able to establish a 48-43 lead on a Danjel Purifoy three pointer, but that was the last positive note for the Tigers over the next several minutes. Arkansas quickly builta 16-2 run, and ran out to a 59-50 edge, wherein Jones and Sills traded threes for the Hogs. With 7:38 left to play, J’Von McCormick fouled Desi Sills and came up with a tattered jersey hanging off of his torso. Sills had ripped it, yet McCormick was called for the foul, and that action seemed to change the game.
As McCormick changed into the baggy spare #55 jersey, he seemed to take on a different mindset and exerted control over the comeback and the final several minutes. His next shot was a three that cut the lead to 65-57, and then he made two foul shots and a layup to tie the game at 66 with 2:17 to play. He then gave Auburn the lead on another three, but a Mason Jones free throw with 37 seconds left tied the game at 69, and Arkansas’ last second chance fell off as we headed to overtime.
In the extra period, Auburn’s conditioning and depth clearly showed, as Arkansas seemed to be playing on heavy legs. The Tigers rolled out to a 75-70 advantage with 1:42 to go, and even though the game was largely decided at the foul line after that, the Tigers’ rebounding and depth turned things just enough. Mason Jones converted a three-point play late to pull Arkansas within one, but Samir Doughty’s two clutch free throws reestablished a 79-76 lead for Auburn, and Jones’ desperation three was off target as time ran out.
In addition to Doughty’s 23, J’Von McCormick finished with 16 points, and Anfernee McLemore notched 11 points and 10 rebounds. Isaac Okoro also scored in double figures with 14 points and 7 rebounds, and the Tigers did enough on Razorbacks not named Mason Jones, as Desi Sills scored 14 points, and Adrio Bailey had 10, but only five players in white scored at all.
Auburn’s depth was key in tonight’s victory, as it was evident that Arkansas’ limited roster (hurt by the absence of Isaiah Joe) couldn’t keep up late. Rebounding was yet another huge win for the Tigers, as they dominated the boards 44-27, with 15 offensive rebounds. Additionally, Auburn was better in second chance points, points in the paint, and fastbreak points. Arkansas made a killing in the turnover game, though, forcing 14 steals. Their three-point shooting percentage helped build the lead, as they shot better thatn 50% until late in the game. At the end, Auburn actually finished with a higher shooting percentage (44% to 42%), but Arkansas’ perimeter shooting was lights out (40% to 26%).
With the win, Auburn is now 20-2 overall, and 7-2 in the SEC. We’re at the midpoint of the SEC season, with some of our toughest road games out of the way. Up next, Auburn gets league-leading LSU at home on Saturday before Alabama comes to town next week as well. Tipoff on Saturday comes at 11 am CST. War Eagle!