Taking the team on his back with a monster second half that saw him score all 16 of his points in the game, the junior college transfer led the Tigers all the way back to take a 70-63 victory that gives Auburn some much needed momentum heading into Saturday's showdown at Florida. The comeback was the largest for an Auburn team since coming from 19 down in the last 10 minutes to defeat LSU during the 1999 season.
"Well, it was a great comeback," Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis said. "One of the best comebacks we have ever had here. I don't know of a better comeback since I have been here than what happened tonight."
Needed a lift during a second-half drought Ellis turned to Brown and he responded with one of the best runs by an individual in a long time for an Auburn player. During a seven minute stretch late in the game Brown scored 16 of Auburn's 18 points as the Tigers took the lead for good. He said that once the team started feeling it that everything just took off.
"I think in the second half we made a couple of adjustments and we started going inside and once we started going inside the outside kind of opened up," Brown said. "And then the crowd got behind us and it was all over from then."
One teammate said later that it wasn't due as much to the team during the stretch, but it was mostly about number 21 feeling it from the floor.
"He came in and hit those big shots," point guard Ian Young said. "And I told him to keep shooting because he was kind of off the first half and he gave us that big lift that we needed, another shooter out there to space the zone out more." For much of the first half the Tigers looked like the same club that had failed to break 50 points against Alabama last Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Settling for outside shots that weren't falling, Auburn floundered on the offensive end and trailed Arkansas 39-20 with 1:40 left in the first half when Ronnie Brewer scored after a Brandon Robinson turnover. Following a 30-second timeout Auburn turned things around.
Quinnel Brown lets a jumper fly against Arkansas Wednesday night.
First Nathan Watson scored on a lay-up of his own after a steal at mid-court. A Killingsworth tip-in followed just moments later and just like that the Tigers had some life. The two teams traded a basket to end the half with Killingsworth slamming home a Young miss at the buzzer to make it 41-28 Hogs. Little did everyone know that the last few minutes of the first half would be a sign of things to come for the Tigers.
Auburn started out the second half on fire as a move of Killingsworth into the lane against the Arkansas zone proved to be magic as he scored the first two baskets to cut the lead down to nine. Following an Eric Ferguson basket for Arkansas Robinson scored on a good entry pass from Kyle Davis to get Auburn back inside double-figures. Watson then connected from the perimeter to cut the lead down to four.
"We were having a struggle and I like Marco down around that block, but I will tell you what we were struggling at the high post," Ellis said. "I'll tell you Reggie Sharp made the suggestion to put him at the high post, that we needed to get Kyle and Brandon down around the blocks and get Marco up high and it was a great move."
Things appeared to be slipping away from the Tigers just minutes later as a Jonathan Modica three-pointer pushed the lead back to nine at 50-41 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the game. Following a Young three from the left wing Auburn got some bad news when Robinson picked up his fourth foul with 9:12 left on the clock. In for Robinson after shooting 0-5 in the first half Brown got involved quickly as he took a pass from Young on the right wing and drained a 15-footer to cut the lead down to just four points at 50-46.
Fired up the Tigers picked up the tempo on the defensive end by switching to a zone and shut down the Hogs for four minutes. In that span Brown would hit another short jumper and two more threes from the right wing to give the Tigers a 54-50 lead. The lead was the first for Auburn since the 15:54 mark of the first half on Young's first three-pointer of the night. Arkansas didn't give up without a fight as Olu Famutimi drained a three with 6:37 left to cut the lead back to one.
"I thought our one did what the other team had been doing to us," Ellis said. "I thought our zone got us back in there. It is kind of like we just flipped it. We answered the zone in the second half and I think that they were stifled with the zone."
With the pressure mounting both teams got cold from the floor and went almost three full minutes without scoring until Famutimi tipped in his own miss to give the Hogs back the lead. A Ferguson lay-up off a steal pushed the lead back to three just seconds later and things again looked bleak for the Tigers, but that's when Brown came back to life. Out for a breather during Arkansas' run, he came back with Auburn down one after a Killingsworth jumper from the free throw line. Quickly getting back into the action he drilled back-to-back three-pointers in 22 seconds to push Auburn back in front by five. The two teams traded baskets before a Vincent Hunter lay-up with just 32 seconds left made it 64-61 Tigers. Auburn's best free throw shooter then stepped to the line hoping to ice the game. Shooting 81.8 percent on the season, Watson calmly dropped both charity shots to put Auburn back up by five. Following an Arkansas miss Young did the same and Auburn was on the way to a victory. A late Davis dunk on a breakaway sealed the win and one of the best comebacks in recent memory for the Tigers.
Killingsworth scored 16 points and had seven rebounds for the Tigers while Young added 14 and seven assists. Watson added 10 points and eight big rebounds and Davis had eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Auburn outrebounded the Hogs 47-35 on the night and held the Hogs to just 24.1 percent shooting in the second half. Auburn returns to action Saturday afternoon in Gainesville when they face the Florida Gators. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.