Bryce Brown (above) scored 27 points to lead the Auburn basketball Tigers to a road victory at Bud Walton Arena.
Fayetteville, Ark.--It was going to take something extraordinary for short-handed Auburn to earn its first SEC basketball road victory of the season and that happened on Wednesday night as the Tigers made 15 three-pointers on the way to a 90-86 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Freshman Bryce Brown led the charge with a season-high 27 points as he made 9-18 three-point attempts.
Tyler Harris, who has been slumping due to a back problem followed by food poisoning, helped the Tigers pull off the upset by scoring 19 points while adding five rebounds and five assists.
Senior forward Tyler Harris races to get to a loose ball on Wednesday night vs. the Razorbacks.
Playing both point guard and power forward, Cinmeon Bowers hit four free throws in the final 33 seconds to preserve the victory. The senior scored 14 points and led the Tigers with 10 rebounds while adding a team-high six assists.
Sophomore guard T.J. Lang, who made 5-6 threes, contributed to the cause with 17 points. The Tigers took the lead for good at the 2:33 mark on a three-pointer by Lang that put them up 80-79. The sophomore followed up with another trey at the 1:55 mark to make the score 83-79.
The Tigers built the advantage to five points at 1:16 when Brown nailed his season-high ninth three-pointer. After that Arkansas began fouling and the rest of the points came on free throws by Bowers.
The victory was the first for the Tigers since defeating Alabama on Jan.19th and snapped a seven-game losing streak. Bruce Pearl’s team improved to 10-15 overall and 4-9 in the SEC. Arkansas fell to 12-14 overall and 5-8 in the league.
Defensive pressure forced Auburn turnovers early in the second half. That allowed the Razorbacks to take their biggest lead of the night at the 13:55 mark when they pulled ahead 61-52, prompting a timeout from the Tigers.
“I thought in the second half when it started to get away from us, our guys stayed calm and stayed with it,”?Pearl said. “It took a tremendous effort from seven guys. Who didn’t play well?”
The Tigers cut the lead to 64-62, but didn’t pull ahead until Lang’s three-pointer at the 2:33 mark.
“It was very, very special,” Pearl said. “That one there was for the kids more than anything else because they have been beat down pretty good. Given everything, they could have cashed it in.”
Commenting on Brown’s play, Pearl said, “There might be a few freshmen in the country who can shoot better than him, but not a lot.”
Brown pointed out there was foreshadowing that it would be a good shooting night for the Tigers, who made 33-54 field goals for 61.1 percent. “At shoot-around everybody seemed to be hitting,” he said. “We just made a lot of shots in walk-through and I felt if we carried it through to the game we would be good.”
The freshman said the coaches asked him to take more of a scoring load with key scorers not available. “They just asked a little bit more out of me--nothing I can’t do,” said Brown, who added that it was a team effort that allowed the Tigers to win. “We did everything together today,”?he said. “I believe that is what led us to victory.”
Auburn played its best opening half in recent weeks and trailed for just three minutes and 25 seconds in the period. With the help of 60 percent three-point shooting in the period the Tigers led by as much as 27-20 at the 10:22 mark on T.J. Lang’s long shot.
At halftime the game was tied at 46-46 as the Tigers scored one more point than they did in their previous road game, a 71-45 setback at Tennessee.
Halftime Numbers: Auburn hit 17-28 field goals (60.7 percent), 9-15 threes and 3-5 free throws while Arkansas hit 19-37 field goals (51.4 percent), 6-13 threes and 2-5 free throws. Arkansas out-rebounded the Tigers 17-15 in the half and turned the ball over eight times, three fewer than the Tigers, who got 18 points in the period from Brown and 13 from Harris.
After struggling with turnovers to open the second half, the Tigers committed just one in the final eight minutes, a key statistic in the comeback that allowed Auburn to snap an eight-game losing streak in the series vs. Arkansas. It was also Auburn’s first win at Bud Walton Arena since 2009.
Auburn held a 35-34 edge in rebounds and managed to win despite 21 turnovers, nine more than the home team, which held a 26-18 edge in points off of those mistakes.
The Tigers won despite making just 9-19 free throws while the home team got to the foul line 31 times and made 19.
Although he didn’t put up big statistics, Pearl noted he liked the performance from senior Jordon Granger, who scored seven points while adding seven rebounds and four assists. “Jordon Granger made a boat-load of winning plays,” the coach said.
“It took a monumental effort, but also a pretty special performance by everybody at the same time to come in here and get that win,” Pearl added.
"To say that our team needed that would be an understatemen," Pearl said. "Knowing that Arkansas is such a good pressing team, they turned us over 21 times and we knew that was going to be a factor, but we hung in there with them. Bryce Brown was a guy that had no SEC offers and he’s a kid that has great range and a great feel and has really developed as a player since coming to Auburn. Arkansas has a couple of great shooters in (Anthlon) Bell and (Dusty) Hannahs. I thought we had some guys that played some of their best basketball tonight. We had six guys hit on a lot of cylinders tonight and that is why we were able to win.”
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said, "First of all, congratulations to Auburn for a hard fought game. They are a team that hasn’t been shooting well. We let them get into a nice rhythm. I’m disappointed in our defensive effort. We didn’t defend the rim tonight.
"Bowers did a good job of controlling the game," Anderson noted. "Brown got in a nice rhythm. There were a couple of huge momentum changers and even at the end we made some bad decisions. They made us pay for our bad decisions. It’s very disappointing to lose here at home. We take pride in defending our home court."
Worth Noting, Part 1: The Tigers managed to win despite being out-scored 31-7 in bench points.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn out-scored the Razorbacks 36-26 for points in the paint.
Horace Spencer jumps high to block a shot on Wednesday night.
Stat of the Game: Nothing can top the Tigers hitting 65.2 percent of their three-pointers (15-23), but a season-high seven blocks by center Horace Spencer contributed to the victory. The freshman finished with six points and five rebounds.
Up Next: The Tigers will be at home on Saturday for a 4 p.m. CST game vs. Ole Miss.