In a game that ran that the full gamut of bursts — big leads, blown leads, back and forth — Auburn was able to knock off its first ranked opponent of the year in the #12 Missouri Tigers tonight at home by a score of 88-82.
Sharife Cooper was the wizard as usual, leading all scorers with 28 points, along with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He got a ton of help from unlikely candidates in J.T. Thor and Chris Moore, who finished with 12 and 11 points respectively. Auburn was able to dominate the rim, blocking 14 shots and hitting 36-44 free throws as they frustrated Missouri into committing 29 fouls. Cooper also set a record for a single-game with 18 made free throws
The first half was all Auburn for the first fifteen minutes, with Sharife Cooper controlling the means of production.
Sharife Cooper aka Lobstradamus AKA Grigori Passputin aka mister Assister aka call Karl Marx because he _is_ the means of production— Drew Crowson (@SonOfCrow2) January 27, 2021
A J.T. Thor three pointer got the scoring started for Auburn, part of a half where Thor led the TIgers in scoring with 9 points. Auburn was going hard at Missouri’s defense, with Sharife Cooper attempting lob after lob at the rim. It wasn’t until a few minutes in that he connected with Devan Cambridge for a thunder dunk that gave Auburn an 8-4 edge, but it would take a few more minutes before Auburn started to control the game. Cooper hit a driving layup to push the Tigers ahead 13-9, and then they heated up.
Eight straight points from Chris Moore off the bench stretched the margin to 21-9, and then a pair of Cooper foul shots gave the Tigers a 30-16 lead just after the under-8 timeout, their largest lead of the game. However, moments later the game changed when Cooper got saddled with his third foul of the first half and had to sit the rest of the period. During that time, the final 5:06 of the first half, Missouri went on an 11-7 run to close the half and pull within a 39-35 deficit at the intermission.
Bruce Pearl chose to keep Cooper on the bench for the first moments of the second half as well, but it didn’t pay off, and the Auburn offense looked stagnant and messy without the point guard on the floor. Out of halftime, the other Tigers went on a 14-4 run before the first timeout hit. Still, Auburn wasn’t done. The reinsertion of Cooper provided a huge spark, and Auburn went on a 7-0 run trailing 50-43 to tie the game with 13:30 to play. By way of Cooper driving and the aggressive defense that Missouri played, fouls started to pile up like they did in the first half and the Tigers were in the bonus with twelve minutes left to play.
After Auburn knotted it up at 50, both sides played fairly even basketball over the next few minutes. A Cooper to Cambridge lob tied the game at 57, and then Chris Moore’s third three of the night gave the Tigers a 60-57 edge at the midway point of the half. A Dru Smith three tied the game at 62-62, but two straight Cooper drives put the home Tigers up 66-62 as the game approached the seven-minute mark and a timeout. More work at the foul line from Cooper, Cambridge, and Dylan Cardwell built a 72-64 lead for Auburn with six minutes to play, and the crowd at Auburn Arena got into the game more as well. Auburn was able to hold a 76-69 lead at the final break of the game, despite Sharife Cooper earning his fourth foul.
Out of the last timeout, Auburn continued to work toward the free throw line, as Missouri’s Mark Smith fouled out and sent Allen Flanigan to the line. Moments later, with Sharife Cooper double teamed in the backcourt, he tossed to Flanigan, who took it the rest of the way for a huge emphatic dunk to give the Tigers an 82-73 lead, but Missouri hit a clutch answer three. However, timely free throws from Jaylin Williams and the team’s 14th block — this one from Thor — helped to close the door as Auburn ran out the clock for the win.
Up next, it’s the 2nd ranked team in America as Auburn visits Baylor on Saturday afternoon to tangle with former Tiger guard Davion Mitchell and the undefeated Bears.