The Hawks pulled out to an early 14-7 lead against the slow starting Tigers behind three consecutive three pointers by their star and head coach's son Tee Trotter. The senior guard led all scorers in the game with 21 points while shooting 5 of 6 from behind the arc, but it wasn't enough as the Tigers improved to 3-0 on the season with the win.
Despite the sluggish start the Tigers soon regained their composure and slipped back into their game plan. Auburn began the comeback as junior forward Quinnel Brown dropped in a lay-up as he was fouled with 16:15 remaining in the first half. Brown missed the insuing free-throw, but a Brandon Robinson offensive rebound led to a key three pointer by point guard Ian Young to draw the Tigers within two with 15:53 remaining in the period and settle the nerves after the slow start.
Following the game Auburn coach Cliff Ellis explained that Trotter certainly had an effect on the Tigers in the early going. "Well there was no doubt that Tee Trotter put on an awesome performance. You have to give him credit I thought he ignited their team in the early going, Ellis said." "He hit some tough shots and made some big shots, and that shows you how the trey can really affect you."
For the next eight minutes of the first half the Tigers and Hawks battled back and forth and the game remained knotted up at 23 with 7:15 remaining in the half. However, after a steal by junior Guard Nathan Watson, who dropped in 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals for the Tigers, Young took ball down for a lay-up to give the Tigers a lead that they would never relinquish at 25-23 with 6:32 remaining. Auburn closed the half on a 15-7 run to head into the locker room up on the pesky Hawks 40-30.
Guard Nathan Watson comes off the screen looking for a pass from Ian Young.
Auburn senior center Kyle Davis explained following the game that there were many lessons to be learned from this outing. "Yeah, I thought that we came out a little flat, Davis said. "We have just got to go out there and from now on and just pick it up and just play hard like we have been playing for the first two games."
In the second half the Tigers turned up the heat defensively and began to pull away from the clearly out manned Hawks. The Tigers held the hot shooting Hawks to only 38.7 percent shooting from the floor in the second half and also kept Trotter at bay with only seven points in the half.
Maryland-Eastern Shore Coach Thomas Trotter explained that the Tigers defensive pressure in the second half really made things tough for them. "They picked it up a little more defensively and Tee made some shots to kind of keep it close early in the second half but they did a good job of doubling him and making him force other people to shoot."
After a jumper by Trotter 15 seconds into the half to pull the Hawks within eight the Tigers never looked back. Stretching the lead out to as many as thirty-one in the second half the Tigers simply out manned, out sized and out hustled the Hawks for the 85-61 victory.
The stats showed a clear picture of how dominant the Tigers were following the contest as the Tigers out scored the Hawks in the paint 44-20. As tough as that would be to overcome for any team the Tigers also had 28 points off of turnovers compared to Maryland-Eastern Shore's three. The Hawks were also out rebounded by the Tigers 43-24.
With a total of 85 points on the board it was not shocking that the Tigers had five scorers in double figures with Young leading the way with 16 points and two steals for the game. Second for the Tigers was Robinson who added 15 points, that included a powerful put back slam of a missed Marco Killingsworth lay-up, as well as eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Also in double figures for the Tigers were Killingsworth with 10 points and seven rebounds, Brown who had 12 points and four boards, and Watson, whose 11 points all came in a stellar offensive first half for the guard.
After Trotter's 21 points things were pretty much spread out for the Hawks. Sophomore Guard Arron Wellington was the only other Hawk in double figures with 12 points. Senior forward Didier Socka had eight points and five boards and Senior Forward Javes Wiggins added six points to the Hawks cause.
The Tigers now hit the road for the first time as they travel to Huntsville to face off against a scrappy Grambling team. Then the Tigers must quickly return home to play 2003 NCAA tournament participant Colorado State on Monday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
Coach Ellis he says this tough opening three game stretch has been crucial to his new players. "I think that the new guys are starting to feel that experience of playing and I think I am seeing some confidence in them, Ellis explains." "I think that there are a lot of phases of the game that we still need to pick up on the offensive and defensive end but it's early. I think the big thing that I see is the new guys starting to become a little more comfortable with the offensive system."
As for the Tigers new point guard, Young says that playing three teams that have put so much pressure on him on the floor is only going to help him improve. "It is definitely going to help me. From the first game I struggled a lot with it because everything was going so fast, Young notes." "But the coaches worked with me to calm down and play and not to worry about it. But it is going to help me once I get into the SEC schedule and stuff, so I am glad that they are doing it early."