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GAME RECAP: Arkansas 80, #1 Auburn 76 (OT)

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Tough loss, but there are bright spots.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Well, after nineteen straight wins, the Tigers were finally beaten.

Auburn fell at Arkansas 80-76 in an overtime thriller that saw the Tigers fight with a shorthanded team and everything going against them. Bud Walton Arena saw a sellout crowd, the largest in history, and they rushed the floor once the final horn sounded.

JD Notae led the way for Arkansas with 28 points, and the Razorbacks made a living at the free throw line in overtime, going 11-14 from the stripe in the extra period to seal the win. For the Tigers, Jabari Smith buried two late triples to keep Auburn in it, but the Hog effort was too much. Smith led Auburn with 20 points and 9 rebounds, but Walker Kessler, who fouled out in overtime, was the glue that kept the Tigers in it. His 16 points, 19 rebounds, and 7 blocks gave Auburn a huge boost from the interior. Wendell Green added 19 points and had an opportunity to hit the game-winning three at the end of regulation, but his logo heave fell off the mark.

Auburn trailed by 12 during points in the first half, as Arkansas built a 27-15 lead, but the Tigers battled back. At the break, they faced just a 28-25 deficit, and took an early lead in the second half as Smith heated up. Both teams battled back and forth, trading slim leads through the entire second period. Arkansas took a 51-46 lead on a Notae layup midway through the half, but Auburn quickly answered to tie the game on five straight points from Wendell Green. The Tigers then answered with a bit of a run of their own, going up 64-59 with a couple minutes remaining. Jaylin Williams (the Arkansas one) scored to tie the game at 66-66 with :21 left in regulation, and Green’s long three went off the mark and sent us to overtime.

The Tigers scored first in the period on a layup from Allen Flanigan, but then Notae hit a rainbow three over Jabari Smith. Arkansas didn’t make another shot in the extra period, instead hitting 11-14 free throws for the rest of their points.

There are quite a few silver linings to take away from this one. Everything went right for Arkansas and it took everything they had to knock off Auburn tonight.

  • Zep Jasper’s illness allowed a guard to score in the upper 20s for the second straight game. With him on the floor, even if Notae is limited to his season average, Auburn wins in a walk. He also doesn’t turn the ball over, and the Tigers had 19 turnovers tonight, leading to 24 Arkansas points.
  • Free throws. Auburn shot 17 foul shots to Arkansas’ 32, but if Auburn had literally made one more shot than the 8-17 performance they turned in, they win. In the second half and overtime, the Tigers went 3-10 from the stripe, and missed a ton down the stretch that would’ve sealed the game.
  • The home crowd. Auburn won’t play anywhere like that again the rest of the season, and they were a big factor.
  • And this one is a little subjective, but getting Jabari Smith a touch on every possession is almost a must unless you’ve got a clear shot. Too many times did Wendell Green try to do everything himself, but you’ve got to let the #1 draft pick take the game-winning shot at the end of regulation. I think Bruce will correct that, and without Wendell starting when Zep gets back, this will get fixed.

In the end, Auburn had a court stormed against them. Arkansas has won a basketball national title in my lifetime, and they stormed the court for a win over us. This program has come a long way, and one loss in early February doesn’t mean anything except that it provides Bruce Pearl a little more motivation to get this team even more unstoppable than they previously were. The last time we lost, we won the next 19. Do that again, and we’re taking a winning streak into November 2022.

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