The points total was not only a high for the Tigers at Auburn Arena, it was the most the basketball team has scored in a regular season game since the Coach Cliff Ellis Era when the Tigers defeated Grambling 105-56 on Nov. 29, 2003.
Sophomore guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen hit five treys in 10 attempts to score a career-high 21 points for the Tigers as a crowd of 8,120 enjoyed the action.
“We were back at the crib tonight and we feel like we shouldn’t lose a game at home,” said Shamsid-Deen, who broke out of a shooting slump that included a 1-8 night at Colorado. His previous high game was 17 points last seaspm vs. Tennessee.
“My coaches and my teammates have been encouraging me to keep shooting and don’t worry about missing,” he said. “In the second half they started to drop.”
The Tigers forced 20 turnovers while committing just 10 vs. the Ragin’ Cajuns. “Coach said if we focused on our defense the offense would come,” Shamsid-Deen pointed out. “The main focus tonight was get pressure on their guards and let’s get out and run. In the second half we opened the score up.”
Auburn improved to 2-1 with both of the victories coming against 2014 NCAA Tournament teams.
"It feels great," Coach Bruce Pearl said of his team's effort. "It is the way we like to play. The kids had fun playing it. I think our fans enjoyed watching it.
"We beat a good basketball team," he added. "Louisiana-Lafayette is picked second in the Sun Belt and they are going to have a good team. They have seven new players so the coach is putting a lot of new pieces together. That is the best we played. We had several guys with some career numbers.
"I thought Cinmeon Bowers' defense on Shawn Long was tremendous," Pearl said. "Shawn Long is the nation’s leading returning double-double player. Shawn had six points and two rebounds. Cinmeon had 20 and 12. That is very significant on the offensive and defensive end.
"We are short-handed still without Antoine Mason," Pearl said. "We have eight scholarship guys, and I thought that was a really good win for us.”
Leading 45-38 at intermission the Tigers turned up the heat on the Ragin’ Cajuns by making 69 percent of their second-half shots, including 7-11 behind the three-point arc. Louisiana-LaFayette tried to stop the Tigers by switching defenses from man, to 1-3-1 zone to a 2-3 zone, but nothing cooled off the Tigers.
Granger credited Coach Bruce Pearl for helping set him up with better scoring opportunities and credited assistant coaches Chuck Person and Harris Adler helping him become a better shooter. Asked about his AU high-point game, the junior said, “It feels great, but we have to focus on the two games in Vegas right now.”
K.C. Ross-Miller plays defense in Auburn’s full-court press.<
Pearl said the Tigers were far from perfect, even in the second half when they scored 60 points, but noted his team "made plays tonight" vs. the Ragin' Cajuns both offensively and defensively, too, with its full-court pressure.
Halftime Numbers: The Tigers led 45-38 with Harrell scoring 15 points, Bowers adding 13, Granger seven and K.C. Ross-Miller with six. The Tigers hit 43.2 percent of their field goals, were 9-12 at the foul line and 4-15 on threes while enjoying a 23-18 rebounding edge.Louisiana-LaFayette had 10 first half turnovers, four more than the Tigers, and hit 45.2 percent of its field goals, 8-10 foul shots and 2-11 threes.
Starting Lineup: With Antoine Mason out for a second straight game with an ankle sprain the Tigers started K.C. Ross-Miller in his spot along with Cinmeon Bowers, Jordon Granger, K.T. Harrell and Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
Pearl said he “hopes Mason will be back next week,” but added that is not certain. “He is making progress. It looks like he is walking now without a limp. He is working diligently to come back.” Pearl said that when Mason does return not to expect him to be 100 percent with his quickness and mobility.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Louisiana-LaFayette coach Bob Marlin said he was impressed with how the Tigers played, particularly in the second half when the home team pulled away in the opening minutes of the period.
“They played extremely well," Marlin said. "We couldn’t keep the basketball in front in man-to-man or zone. They made a lot of three-point shots, too. That’s the difference in the game. They out-threed us by 24 and made one more free-throw. There’s your 25 right there."
Worth Noting, Part 2: Shamsid-Deen, who dislocated a shoulder in the season opener, said that he didn’t think about the injury except one time on Friday night when he pulled up going for a loose ball. “The only thing the doctor told me was not to dive on the floor.”
Worth Noting, Part 3: Pearl didn't have his players and assistant coaches at the exits thanking them for turning out, but he did call the support "phenomenal" as the Tigers improved to 2-0 at home.
Stat of the Game: Auburn out-rebounded the taller Ragin’ Cajuns 36-31.
Up Next: The Tigers fly to Las Vegas on Saturday and will play Monday at 10 p.m. CST vs. Tulsa in the MGM Main Event.