Kareem Canty (above) struggled with his shooting vs. the Cowboys.
Auburn, Ala.--Horrible shooting, including 12 missed threes in the second half without a make, doomed Auburn to its third straight loss, a 74-63 setback to Oklahoma State in the SEC-Big 12 Basketball Challenge.
The Tigers made just 18-62 field goals (29.0 percent) and 6-29 threes (20.7 percent). They didn’t help their cause at the foul line either, hitting just 21-31.
Auburn fell to 9-11 for the season while the Cowboys improved to 11-10 as they snapped a two-game losing streak.
Just two Tigers finished in double figures for points. Kareem Canty scored 21, but made just 7-24 field goals and 1-10 threes.
Coach Bruce Pearl made it clear he wasn’t pleased with what he saw from the team as a whole and his point guard in particular.
“I would say it is okay if you didn’t enjoy that basketball because that wasn’t very good basketball,” he said. “To start the game we had 15 points in the first five minutes. We were just too soft with our ball pressure. We picked it up after that and I thought defensively we gave a pretty decent effort.
“Offensively, we just demonstrated so few weapons, so few options,”?Pearl said. “The offensive execution is poor. The buy-in to what we are trying to do is poor.
“You get into a certain situation where all you can do is put Kareem in the ball screens, spread the floor and see if he can make enough plays, but those are the things your point guard should do at the end of games, the end of halves, not for 30 minutes.
“That is why he has got to get other people involved,” said Pearl, who added, “Now, we missed a lot of shots early in the game. We missed 10 free throws and as a result we weren’t able to beat a good team.”
The two Tigers who shot the ball well, T.J. Lang and Jordon Granger, didn’t get many shots launched. Granger got off three treys and made two on the way to scoring six points. Lang shot four times, all threes, and made two on the way to scoring eight points.
Pearl said that after the game he wrote 4-7 on the locker room board and 14-55 shooting for the rest of the team to make a point that the Tigers need to get Lang and Granger more shot opportunities.
“Here is the deal--Jordon and T.J. only take open shots,” Pearl said. “They won’t take shots that are bad shots or contested. I need some more guys to turn down shots. It is not like we are getting the shot clock run down. Can I get them more shots because they can’t create their own shot? It’s hard, it’s hard.”
Sophomore guard T.J. Lang finished with eight points and three rebounds.
The Tigers played without senior Cinmeon Bowers, who was serving a one-game suspension because the head coach said the forward “crossed the line” with his attitude.
Pearl said he anticipates Bowers being back in action for Auburn’s next game vs. LSU. “Cim has done a lot of positive things in our program. I don’t want our fans to be too upset with him. These are young guys and they do make mistakes.
“Cim just gets very passionate, but his conduct recently has warranted him not playing the last 17 minutes vs. Ole Miss and not playing tonight. He feels badly, he has apologized, and I am hopeful he can come back and finish the season strong.”
Tyler Harris scored 16 points and tied Horace Spencer for the team lead in rebounds with 11. “I thought Horace Spencer played really hard, really well,” Pearl said. “He was definitely a factor out.”
Jawun Evans, a freshman point guard, led the Cowboys with 21 points, five assists and just one turnover in 34 minutes.
Oklahoma State hit 23-53 field goals (43.4 percent) and was 7-17 on threes and 21-25 at the foul line.
The Cowboys came out firing from three-point range and built a quick 10-2 lead less than two minutes into the action. Midway through the period the lead grew to 14 points.
Auburn made a run 12-0 run to cut the margin to 31-29 with 2:48 left before intermission, but the Tigers couldn’t sustain the momentum and trailed 40-31 at the break.
Halftime Numbers: Auburn hit just 9-34 field goals (26.5 percent) and was 6-17 on threes and 7-12 at the foul line. OSU hit 15-32 field goals (46.9 percent), 5-11 threes and 5-6 free throws.
Auburn trailed 23-22 in rebounds at the break and turned the ball over three times to six for the Cowboys, who got 10 points in the period from Leyton Hammonds and Chris Olivier. Lang scored eight points for the Tigers in the half, but picked up his third foul with less than a second remaining in the period.
A crowd of 8,867 tried to spark the Tigers to make a run in the second half. Auburn cut the lead to 57-52 on a pair of free throws by Canty with 6:28, but the Cowboys soon built the margin back to double figures and the Tigers didn’t make another run.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Canty has taken 25 treys in the past three games and made just three of them.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Spencer’s 11 rebounds, six blocked shots and 27 minutes of playing time were all season-highs for the freshman.
Worth Noting, Part 3: The Tigers turned the ball over just seven times, four less than OSU, and out-rebounded the visitors 42-41.
Stat of the Game: Auburn’s bench contributed just six points, 20 less than the Cowboys.
Up Next: The Tigers will be at home for a 6 p.m. Tuesday game vs. LSU.