Despite controlling the game for much of the contest, Auburn was almost the victim of some bad luck in a game that had to be delayed because of dangerous playing conditions at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The home of an East Coast Hockey League team, the coliseum has ice under the basketball floor. On a day when the temperatures soared to 80 degrees in the Charleston area, that meant a lot of condensation on the floor and players slipping and sliding. The dangerous situation caused long delays during the game and cost Auburn momentum at a key time in the second half, but the Tigers responded to come away with the victory against a tough opponent.
"I told my team after the game, 'You guys really don't understand how good of a win this was,'" Coach Jeff Lebo said. "They don't understand the history of Charleston basketball and what they've been like the past 15 or 16 years. To win here is a very difficult thing to do.
"I thought defensively we did a good job. They didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but defensively we did a nice job. They go 0-13 from the three and that's really their niche." Charleston hit just 39 percent of its field goals while Auburn finished at 44.8 percent while hitting 5-22 three-pointers.
The Tigers also did a good job on the boards as they out-rebounded the Cougars 46-29.
Freshman guard Toney Douglas led the way for the Tigers with 17 points while Quinnel Brown scored 14 points and led the Tigers on the boards with 10 rebounds.
Freshman Daniel Hayles added a season-high 14 points as well while Ian Young scored 12 and Nathan Watson finished with 11 points. Lebo said it was a true team effort for the Tigers in the win with Brown's play one of the big reasons why Auburn came away with the victory.
"He did a great job on Stanley Jackson inside," Lebo said of Brown. "He's a big moose in there at 6-7 and about 230 pounds. 'Q' just continues to battle and I'm proud of him. He gives effort every day. I'm glad to see him rewarded for that.
"They are my favorite type of teams to coach," Lebo said of his current Auburn team. "On any given night guys are able to give you 12 or 13 points. Daniel Hayles had one of his better games. Defensively, he was alert and made the right plays offensively. He made shots and was very efficient out there. Toney got back in gear a little bit and was more patient. He was much better defensively."
Leading 43-27 with just under 14 minutes left in the game, Auburn had the Cougars on the ropes thanks to a hounding defense and a strong performance by Brown inside. Unfortunately for the Tigers, a 10-minute break to dry the floor was just what the College of Charleston was looking for to get back in the game.
The Cougars came out fired up behind the play of true freshman J.R. Hairston and quickly cut Auburn's lead to 11, but that's when Douglas responded with a volley of his own. Scoring a basket in the lane to break a 6-0 Cougar run, Douglas scored again just moments later from the wing after a C of C free throw and Auburn was back up by 14.
From that point forward it was all Tigers. After surviving the run by the Cougars, Douglas and Hayles keyed the offensive run that would take Auburn to the win. Douglas hit two more baskets from the paint and Hayles added a three-pointer and three free throws to build the Auburn lead to as many as 19 as the Tigers won going away.
The Cougars drop to 3-2 on the season as Auburn swept the home and away series first played in November 2003.
The first half was a sloppy one for both teams, but for Auburn it was very productive as the Tigers used a stifling defense and strong play from Brown inside to build an early lead. Just like in the two previous road games at Temple and Virginia, Auburn struggled from the outset as the Cougars led 8-2 behind the play of big Jeff Horowitz inside, but Auburn would respond in a big way.
Without the outside shot falling, the Tigers pushed the ball in the paint and used free throws to take an advantage. Despite shooting just 2-13 from behind the arc in the first half, Auburn's guard oriented lineup was able to get the job done by being aggressive. Douglas was one of the catalysts of the charge with nine points in the first half, three of them coming from the free throw line. For the game the Tigers made 19-26 from the charity stripe compared to 15-21 for the Cougars.
Despite playing well, Auburn still found itself down 22-19 with just six minutes left in the half when a Stanley Jackson dunk brought the crowd to its feet following a great blocked shot by 5-11 Tony Mitchell on a Douglas shot. Instead of wilting under the pressure, the Tigers put on a clinic the rest of the way as Brown hit two free throws to start a 10-0 Auburn run that gave them a comfortable advantage to close the half. At the break the Tigers led 34-24 with Brown scoring six points and pulling down 10 big rebounds.
The Tigers return to action Sunday at 2 p.m. when they take on the UNLV Running Rebels at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The game will be televised live by Comcast Sports Southeast.