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GAME RECAP: #2 Baylor 84, Auburn 72

Too much from a fantastic team.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Baylor Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn looked the part and went toe-to-toe with the undefeated and second-ranked Baylor Bears for one half today in Waco, but then Scott Drew’s team showed off and showed why they’ve been as successful as they have in the 2020-2021 season.

Baylor used a big run to start the second half to open the game up, and cruise to an 84-72 win to improve to 16-0, while Auburn lost in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and dropped to 10-8 overall. The Tigers ended up with five players in double figures, led by Jaylin Williams’ 17 points, but Baylor matched that while getting a superb bench effort and a steady output from downtown.

The matchup that most looked forward to was Sharife Cooper vs Davion Mitchell, the former Auburn Tiger, and both players showed off at times, with Mitchell’s side getting the better as he finished with 13 points and 7 assists. Cooper wasn’t rendered ineffective, but the Bears held him relatively in check with just 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Auburn held its own for the first half, and the game was back and forth for the first twenty minutes. It took more than two minutes for either side to score, but Davion Mitchell opened the scoring with a three-pointer for Baylor, before the Tiger put together two straight buckets, including an old-fashioned three-point play from Allen Flanigan. Baylor built a 12-5 lead, but a 7-2 run by Auburn tied it up as Devan Cambridge and Chris Moore scored buckets off of turnovers. J.T. Thor gave Auburn a 16-14 lead at the midway point of the half, and then Cambridge did it five minutes later after a missed Cooper three-pointer. Auburn led 22-21 before Baylor went on a run.

An 8-0 burst by the home Bears put them up 29-22 before Jaylin Williams buried a three to end the bleeding, and then buckets by Thor and Cambridge cut the margin to just a point at 31-30. Baylor put together a little cushion and ended up leading 35-30 at the break. Auburn had struggled offensively, especially without Sharife Cooper on the floor, but had to feel good about the score after shooting 34% overall, just 19% from three, and 50% from the line in the first period while only being down by five points.

The second half would show how good Baylor really is. Before two minutes had passed, the Bears opened up a ten-point lead on a Macio Teague three, and then extended that to 16 points after a dunk and a three from Matthew Mayer. Mayer’s next three, coming at the midway point of the second half, built a 66-45 lead for Baylor, the largest of the game, and effectively closed this one out. The rest of the contest saw Auburn whittle the lead down a bit, but it never got closer than 15 points until the final four minutes. In the end, the Bears cruised to an 84-72 victory to stay perfect on the season.

For Auburn, looking at the game stats might not tell the full tale. Auburn shot just 2% worse than Baylor, hit one fewer free throw, committed 13 turnovers to 9 for the Bears, rebounded at the exact same clip, and controlled the paint. The biggest differences were in bench points, where Baylor got 32 points to Auburn’s 16, and in three-point shooting. The Tigers hit just 6-25 threes, while Baylor went 11-30. Neither side had great accuracy, but the five threes were the different in the game. Again, you can see Justin Powell’s absence as a gaping hole in this offense.

Up next for Auburn, they get a game at home with Georgia, who the Tigers dominated a few weeks ago in Athens. That tipoff comes Tuesday night at 6 pm CST at Auburn Arena.