Harvard's Strong Defense Was Too Much for the Auburn Basketball Tigers to Handle

Harvard's defensive effort from start to finish was the key to Auburn's basketball loss to the Crimson in Hawaii.

Cinmeon Bowers (above) drives to the hoop for the Tigers and led Auburn in scoring.

Honolulu, Hawaii--Harvard neutralized Auburn's leading scorer and held the Tigers to a season-low points total as the Crimson advanced to the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic with a 69-51 basketball victory on Sunday.

The Tigers could make just 30.2 percent of their field goals and nobody struggled more than Kareem Canty, who made just 1-15 field goals on the way to scoring three points, 17 below his average.

Another one of Auburn’s key scorers, T.J. Dunans, injured his knee at the end of the first half and did not return. The junior guard did not score. Coach Bruce Pearl said the initial report is that the injury won’t be a long-term issue, but said he doesn’t expect Dunans to be available for Friday’s consolation game.

“It shouldn’t be a long-term thing,” Pearl said. “If it was we would be in a world of hurt.”

Harvard hit 47.2 percent of its field goals, including 8-21 three-pointers, as Auburn’s record dropped to 6-4. Harvard will head into Friday’s championship game with a 5-6 record.

Coach Bruce Pearl makes a point during a timeout at the Stan Sheriff Center on Wednesday in Honolulu.

Pearl made it clear he did not like what he saw from the Tigers in the loss to Harvard.

“They are a very good defensive team and I told our guys we cannot slop through our stuff and score baskets, and we slopped through our stuff right from the very beginning,” Pearl said.

“We try to evolve as the season progresses and grow our system so we have got a lot of stuff in,” Pearl said. “Sometimes you have so much stuff in you don’t do anything very well and that is kind of where we are now. We don’t have our basic stuff that we do, and there is a lot more that I want to do, but that is part of our problem--this team just doesn’t pay attention to detail.”

The Tigers started slowly as Harvard’s inside power sparked the Crimson to a 14-4 lead less than four minutes into the contest.

Harvard built the lead to 16 points at 28-12 and kept the lead in double figures before going into the locker room up 40-29 at the break.

With a lot of good looks near the basket, Harvard made 16-28 first half field goals while Auburn was limited to just 11-27 field goals.

Halftime Numbers: Tyler Harris and Cinmeon Bowers led the Tigers in scoring with eight points apiece while Harris had five of Auburn’s 13 rebounds. Evan Cummins led Harvard with 11 points. Auburn hurt its cause with 10 turnovers, one more than Harvard, which was plus four in rebound margin.

The Tigers had plenty of time and opportunities to get back into the game in the second half. With 15:59 to play they cut the margin to 45-37 on a fastbreak basket by Bowers, who led Auburn in scoring with 17 points while pulling down nine rebounds.

However, the Crimson outscored the Tigers 22-4 to regain command and led 59-39 at the 11:42 mark. The closest Auburn could come the rest of the game was 12 points at 62-50.

Tyler Harris scored 12 points and led the Tigers in rebounding with 12. Bryce Brown chipped in with 13 points, but the only other points were three from Canty and T.J. Lang, two from Jordon Granger and one from Horace Spencer.

Freshman guard Bryce Brown drives to the basket.

Five Harvard players scored in double figures led by freshman guard Corey Johnson’s 14 points.

Each team finished with 39 rebounds and 16 turnovers. Each team struggled at the foul line, too. Auburn hit 7-17, Harvard made 11-20.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Wednesday’s game was the first-ever matchup in hoops between Auburn and a Harvard team, which is looking to earn a fifth-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Worth Noting, Part 2: With Dunans out, walk-on Patrick Keim finished the game at point guard with Canty struggling. Bruce Pearl said that he recruited New Williams to play point guard, but noted that he is not sure the freshman is ready for that assignment.

Stat of the Game: Auburn took 63 shots and missed 44 of them, including 27 misses on 35 second half field goal attempts.

Up Next: The Tigers will be back in action at 5:30 p.m. CST on Christmas Day when they play in the third place game for the eight-team event against the host Hawaii, an 84-82 loser to Oklahoma on Wednesday. The contest will be televised on ESPN2. Hawaii has an 8-2 record.

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