Nashville, Tenn.--Auburn was late getting back on the court for the start of the second half, barely giving the Tigers an opportunity to warm up for what looked like could be their final half of basket this season.
An extra long half-time readjustment session led by Coach Bruce Pearl produced a spark that led to a 16-1 run for the Tigers to erase a 10-point halftime lead.
Junior forward Cinmeon Bowers pointed out that Pearl had the answer for what was ailing the Tigers in the first 20 minutes. “He told us to come out with more defensive intensity,” Bowers said. “He said it was too low and we came out and when we started playing again Jordon (Granger) got a steal and that got us going.”
Auburn’s defense forced 19 turnovers, a key statistic to the Tigers advancing to the third round of the SEC Tournament where they will face LSU at approximately 2:30 p.m. CDT on Friday at Bridgestone Arena. In contrast, the Tigers turned the ball over only 10 times.
Pearl said another key was to hang with a bigger and stronger Texas A&M team on the boards. The Aggies out-rebounded the Tigers, but by a small margin (38-35).
“They destroyed us on the boards the first two times they played us, but this time we hung in there and never let up,” said Bowers, who was Auburn’s top rebounder with eight and No. 2 scorer with 10 points.
Next on the agenda is another strong rebounding team, LSU, which drew byes in the opening two rounds of the SEC Tournament. The Bayou Bengals will be fresh when the teams meet for the third time after splitting the regular season series.
Asked if the fatigue factor will hurt his team, Bowers said Auburn’s strength and conditioning coach (Damon Davis) has the team in good shape and the forward said the 6 a.m. workouts have built the endurance and toughness will come into play on Friday.
After his second game back since his father’s death, senior guard Antoine Mason noted that Bowers was right on target on his assessment about the defense being the difference. He also agreed with Bowers that the Tigers will have a chance against LUSH, even though the Bayou Bengals are fresh.
“I don’t think it will be a big factor because everybody wants to win” he said. “I have got to step up, I have got to get my mind right. I know if I play at my best we will have a greater chance to play LUSH.”
Despite the optimism by his players about being able to handle three games in a row, Pearl said it will be a challenge. “There is no challenge to playing two in a row,” he said. “In fact, the advantage goes to the team that is playing back-to-back. You could see that at the start of the game. You could see that at the start of the half. The three-game thing is a real challenge because fatigue will be a huge factor.”
Antoine Mason drives vs. the Aggies.
Mason’s teammates said they are glad the senior guard rejoined the team for the tournament and have mentioned they wanted to have a strong finish for all of the seniors, especially Mason. The funeral for his father, former NBA star Anthony Mason, was held last Thursday.
“That means a lot to me because we have become a family,” Mason said of the relationships he has with his teammates. “That means a lot that people want to win for me. I want to win for us and that works together.”
ITAT Radio, Friday Podcast
Subs Lead Tigers to SEC Tournament Win
ITAT TV, Football Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp
Spring Decision For Scout 300 CB
ITAT HD: Malzahn Previews Spring
K.T. Is All-SEC
ITAT TV, Pearl on the SEC Tournament
Team By Team SEC Tournament Preview
Tigers Recruiting German Star
Praise for Auburn Basketball Fans
Dye-Gest, Better Days Ahead for Pearl's Tigers