February 21, 2018 - Auburn Arena
A week prior to this game, everything was going great for the Auburn Tigers. Auburn had just wrapped up a win over Kentucky and were closing in on a SEC Championship. Then Saturday in Columbia, South Carolina changed things.
The Tigers suffered a devastating blow when Auburn lost Anfernee McLemore for the season due to injury. Auburn lost that game as well but after Anfernee’s injury, the game to me was meaningless. Anfernee had become the heart and soul of this group and it was heartbreaking to see him go down.
Then, before the game, we found out that Mustapha Heron was out due to illness. And just like that... Auburn was down to 7. What would transpire through this game would make this one of my most memorable games inside Auburn Arena.
First of all, it’s the only game I remember standing front row center court in the Jungle for.
Auburn-Alabama on the Hardwood. Let’s GO!!!!! pic.twitter.com/XsF4Y627lx— Will McLaughlin (@wlmcl) February 22, 2018
And Auburn came out of the starting gate on FIRE too.
The Tigers won the opening tip and Horace Spencer made a layup on the game’s first possession. On defense, Desean Murray would get a steal on Alabama’s first possession which led to a 3 from Jared Harper. After a missed 3 from Alabama, the Tigers would transition quickly and get a corner 3-pointer from Malik Dunbar, starting for Heron. Auburn Arena went bonkers leading 8-0 70 seconds into the game and Alabama had to call an early timeout.
The 3s didn’t stop there as Harper and Dunbar each would connect on their 2nd 3-pointer and Auburn led 14-2 3 minutes in.
But Alabama would settle in, mostly behind Collin Sexton and with 3 minutes left in the half, this game was tied at 30. Auburn would go on an 8-0 run though as Jared Harper would hit 2 free throws, followed by 3s from Chuma Okeke and Bryce Brown. Auburn led 40-35 at halftime behind 16 from Jared Harper who spent a lot of time at the free throw line going 8-9 in the 1st half.
This would remain a 1-2 possession game during the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half. A steal and layup from Davion Mitchell would put Auburn up 60-52 at the Under 12 timeout.
We saw a big time performance from Chuma Okeke in this one, especially in the 2nd half. Okeke scored 13 of his then career-high 16 points in the 2nd half and showed flashes of what we would see from him in the 2018-2019 season.
Auburn led 69-60 with 8 minutes to go but would begin to put the hammer down on the Tide at this point, starting off with a back to back 3s from Davion Mitchell to give Auburn a 75-60 lead.
Mitchell’s 3s would be the start of a 17-2 run to put this game on ice and send Auburn Arena into the loudest building I had ever heard.
Auburn led by 20, 82-62 with 4:30 to go and then.... I’ll just let the videos do the talking here.
Without Anfernee McLemore and Mustapha Heron, Auburn hangs 90 points on the SEC’s top defense as it inches toward the third SEC regular season championship in school history. pic.twitter.com/3UMhkLcCwb— The Auburn Plainsman (@TheAUPlainsman) February 22, 2018
Yup, Horace Spencer dunked on his own teammate pic.twitter.com/TlLQAY0FL8— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 22, 2018
Night Night Alabama.
There was a roar in Auburn Arena that I had never heard before that game. It was incredible. Charles Barkley certainly approved of what was taking place as well.
Auburn had moved one win away from claiming a SEC Championship with the win, going to 24-4 on the season and 12-3 in the SEC.
Jared Harper led the way with 21 points with Bryce Brown scoring 18 points. We mentioned earlier but a career night for Chuma scoring 16 points but also had 10 rebounds, his 1st career double-double.
It was a career night for Malik Dunbar as well, with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Desean Murray had 9 points and 8 rebounds, Davion Mitchell scored 8 with Horace Spencer scoring the other 4, but he did that quite emphatically to say the least.
Here are the highlights!
It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger. War Eagle!