Tigers Pull Away Late to Defeat Mizzou

Five Auburn Tigers scored in double figures as Auburn won an SEC home basketball game vs. Missouri.

Cinmeon Bowers (above) led the Tigers with another double-double.

Auburn, Ala.--Missouri rallied from eight points down in the first half and Auburn came back from eight points down in the second half and then pulled away in the closing minutes for an 85-79 SEC basketball victory on Saturday night.

With Missouri leading 67-63 with 6:52 left Auburn went on an 11-0 run finished by a free throw by Malcolm Canada with 3:28 to play. Auburn led the rest of the way as Tajh Shamsid-Deen scored six of his 10 points on that run.

Five players scored in double figures led by junior forward Cinmeon Bowers, who scored 20 points and added a game-high 14 rebounds. Bowers scored 11 of his points at the foul line on 18 attempts and hit his only three-point shot.

For the first-year Tiger it was his SEC-leading ninth double-double of the season. Bowers hit 4-13 field goals and made his only three-point shot. He made 11-18 free throws and pulled in nine offensive rebounds and five on the defensive boards.

K.T. Harrell scored 14 points despite taking just six shots. K.C. Ross-Miller scored 13 points before fouling out while Malcolm Canada, who was clutch at the foul line in the closing minutes, joined Shamsid-Deen with 10 points.

Tahj Shamsid-Deen hits a key layup late in the game for the Tigers.

"We got out and transitioned from playing defense and that is when we were the most dangerous on the court," Shamsid-Deen said. "That sparked us a little bit."

Auburn improved to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in the league while Missouri fell to 7-8 and 1-1 in the conference as Bruce Pearl picked up his first SEC victory as Auburn’s coach.

A key statistic for Auburn was its three-point shooting. The Tigers made 10-19 led by Harrell, who was 3-3, and Jordon Granger, who was 2-3, and Ross-Miller, who hit 2-4 treys.

“We made 10 threes and we had to,” said Pearl, who noted he was pleased with his team’s effort. “It was a good night for us,” he said, praising the home crowd. “We can’t beat Missouri tonight without them.”

Shamsid-Deen also noticed the crowd. "This time last year I don't think we would have had a crowd like that tonight," he said. "I think our crowd is giving us a good homecourt advantage."

Auburn won despite being out-rebounded 40-31 by Mizzou, which shot 44.3 percent from the field to 48.1 percent for Auburn. Missouri hit 10-27 threes and 15-20 free throws. Auburn was 25-37 at the foul line and turned the ball over nine times, five less than the visitors.

We have got our challenges on the board when you give those guys 22 second-chance points,” Pearl said. “That easily could have cost us the game.”

Auburn led 30-22 with 7:46 in the opening half on a trey by Ross-Miller, but by intermission Missouri cut the lead to one point.

K.C. Ross-Miller sparked the Tigers in the first half.

Halftime Numbers: Auburn led 41-40 with both teams shooting well. AU hit 12-24 field goals (50 percent), 6-13 threes and 11-16 free throws. Mizzou hit 14-30 field goals (47 percent), 5-13 threes and 7-10 free throws. Missouri held a 20-11 advantage in rebounds and turned the ball over eight times, three more than the Tigers. Ross-Miller led the Tigers with 13 points while Bowers scored 11. Keith Shamburger led the visitors with 14 points at the break.

Auburn was cold to start the second half and fell behind 49-41 at the 16:31 mark on a trey by Shamburger. However, by the 12:15 mark Auburn reeled in the visitors as Shamsid-Deen scored to tie the game at 51-51 on a fastbreak pull-up jump shot after a steal by Bowers.

“I felt like we had some wasted possessions and I felt like they were pushing us around,” Pearl said of his team’s slow start in the second half.

Missouri built the lead to six points at 63-57 with 10:09 to play. Auburn pulled ahead 68-67 as Bowers hit one of two free throws with 5:35 to play and the home team never trailed after that.

With Auburn on top 79-77 with a minute left to play, Canada stepped up by making a layup and four free throws to help preserve the lead to the delight of a vocal crowd of 8,365 at Auburn Arena.

Pearl said Auburn’s defense sparked the comeback and was a key to holding on to the lead late in the game with guard Shamsid-Deen leading the effort. “Tajh was out there a lot at the end,” he noted. “That was a decision Coach (Tony) Jones and I made to go with the defensive lineup because that effort and that energy was significant. I started Jordon Granger for that reason...That group guarded and that was the difference for us.

Pearl added, “They did not hurt us on the offensive glass in the last 10 minutes of the game. That was the difference.”

Shamburger scored 21 points for Missouri, Wes Clark added 16 points and Tramaine Isbell added 12.

Bowers said it "feels good" to get a victory vs. an SEC team. "We just locked in and practiced the whole week and made it happen," said the junior forward, who noted that he was pleased with his own defensive effort and in particular his team-high three steals.

Worth Noting: Auburn made 4-6 three-pointers in the second half, which helped the Tigers win despite being outscored 22-7 in second-chance points for the game.

Worth Noting, Part II: Former Auburn star Charles Barkley attended the game to support the Tigers, something that pleased the head coach. The coach called Barkley “a great friend of the program.”

Mizzou's Coach: Kim Anderson said he thought the fans got their money's worth. "It was a great basketball game," he said. "I thought both teams played extremely well. I was really proud of our guys. We got behind, came back and they made a run. We did not make the plays we needed to at the end, but I was really proud of the way we fought."

Stats of the Game: Auburn out-scored Mizzou 10-0 on fastbreak points and hit 52.6 percent of its three-point field goals.

Up Next: The Tigers will travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators on Thursday at 6 p.m. CST.

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