Texas A&M hands Auburn first home loss
Down by 17 in the second half and without leading scorer Bryce Brown, Auburn was still able to battle their way back to force a tie game with seconds left. A questionable foul call handed Texas A&M's Duane Wilson a chance to give the Aggies a lead from the free throw line and he took advantage. Mustapha Heron's last second heave was barely off the mark, giving Auburn their first home loss of the season, falling to Texas A&M 81-80.
Entering the game, analysts expected this to be one of Auburn's toughest games of the year. The Tigers, while atop the SEC standings, are one of the most undersized teams in the conference. Texas A&M boasts two of the league's best big men, both future NBA stars. 6'10'' Tyler Davis and 6'11'' Robert Williams dominated the paint against Auburn. Davis had 15 points and 8 rebounds while Williams had 16 points and 7 rebounds and made Auburn's rebounders uncomfortable all night.
That might be the main takeaway from the game. Wednesday night, Texas A&M was just better in places that Auburn typically succeeds. As mentioned, A&M dominated in rebounding, pulling down 11 more than Auburn. They also shot better from behind the three point line; A&M hit nine deep balls while Auburn only made seven.
When discussing the game, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that Texas A&M just gave every team in the country the blueprint for beating Auburn: pass the ball down low and let your bigs go to work against Auburn's undersized front.
The good news is that while the vulnerability has been put on tape, there are very few teams in the country capable of doing what A&M executed all night.
And while Davis and Williams were expected to go off, Auburn was very surprised by the performance of freshman point guard Tyler Starks. Starks entered the game averaging under seven points per game, but had the game of his young career in Auburn Arena. He scored 23 points, including 4-of-5 on three pointers, to lead the Aggies in scoring.
Despite Starks, Williams and Davis' incredible play, Auburn was still very much in the game until the very end. With leading scorer Bryce Brown forced out with a shoulder injury, Mustapha Heron took over to lead the team with 28 points. Heron was a key contributor in bringing the Tigers back from the 17 point second half deficit.
While Auburn suffered from tough calls down the stretch, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl was unwilling to factor officiating into the loss.
"We lost the game because they scored 81 points," Pearl said. "They shot a great percentage. They got the ball inside and they beat us. The calls at the end didn't lose us the game."
The one point loss was just Auburn's second defeat in conference play but draws Tennessee within one for the SEC's top spot. The Tigers go on the road to Athens on Saturday looking to start another winning streak.