Tigers Fall Just Short In SEC-ACC Hoops Battle

Auburn couldn't pull the upset as the Tigers narrowly lost to Virginia on the road.

Richmond, Va.–-Despite 33 points from true freshman guard Toney Douglas, the Auburn Tigers couldn't take down the 24th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers Friday night, losing a heartbreaker 89-87 at the Siegel Center.

Showing the grit and determination of a winner, the Tigers time and time again laid it on the line, but came up short vs. the physical Cavaliers. Coach Jeff Lebo said that he couldn't be more proud of his team facing a tough challenge on the road.

"I'm disappointed for my kids," Lebo said. "They battled hard and had a chance to win against a Top 25 team here in Richmond. We had opportunities. We battled awfully hard after coming back from a big deficit to start the game, much like we did against Temple. They are a very good basketball team and hard to play. I thought it was another great performance by Toney Douglas and I thought Ronnie LeMelle was terrific coming off the bench."

Toney Douglas

Although at a serious size disadvantage, the Tigers played tough on the boards and actually out-rebounded Virginia on the night. Coming off the bench and playing for just the second time this season, LeMelle scored 15 points as did Nathan Watson. Ian Young added 10 for the Tigers as they made 13-25 three pointers on the night and shot almost 60 percent from the floor. It was the first time this season Virginia has allowed more than 60 points in a game.

Things didn't get off to a good start for the Tigers in their second road game of the season. A big, physical Virginia team took the fight to Auburn early and looked as if they would put the game away in the first 10 minutes. Behind big Elton Brown, the Cavaliers jumped out to an 11-0 lead before Auburn got on the board almost four minutes into the contest.

That only softened the blow the Cavaliers inflicted on the Tigers as the lead eventually built to 14 points at 17-3 before Douglas would put the team on his back. The freshman ran off nine of the game's next 11 points as Auburn quickly cut the lead to seven. A Watson three made it 19-15 Virginia and Frank Tolbert's basket the next trip brought Auburn to within two and was the final basket in a 14-2 Tiger run.

Following a Sean Singletary three to put Virginia back up by five, the Tigers scored the next five to tie the game for the first time since it was 0-0. Douglas continued his strong play to close the half as he gave Auburn its first lead at 24-22 with a short jumper in the lane.

Auburn eventually built the lead to five on Douglas' 18th and 19th points of the half and the two teams exchanged baskets before a Daniel Hayles three-pointer with just over one minute left in the half put the Tigers up 42-35. Auburn went into the half leading 44-38 and out-rebounded the much bigger Cavaliers 19-13.

Auburn quickly found out in the second half that the Cavaliers were ready as they scored the first four points. The game went back and forth until Auburn moved ahead by four at 58-54 on a Quinnel Brown basket. That would signal the beginning of a 10-3 Virginia run as only Ronnie LeMelle's three-pointer kept the Tigers from being blanked for a nearly four-minute stretch. When it was over Virginia held a three-point lead, but Douglas hit three free throws to tie the game and moments later a basket gave the Tigers a 69-67 lead.

That's when Sean Singletary decided to put the game away for the Cavaliers. The freshman guard made four free throws to put UVA up by four and another basket moments later kept the lead safe. Virginia's biggest lead of the second half came when Devin Smith hit a long three-pointer with 2:28 remaining to make it 84-78 Cavs.

Auburn would have its chances late as Douglas missed a wide open three that would have tied the game with just over one minute left. Virginia kept Auburn in it by missing three of its last six free throws at the end of the contest. Despite a late Brown basket and the strong play of LeMelle, the Tigers fell 89-87 to fall to 5-1 on the season.

The Tigers return home Sunday at 3 p.m. when they face the Wofford Terriers at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

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