Other than those not-so-minor details, the Tigers played reasonably well on Senior Day at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, but the offensive ineptitude was too much of a burden to carry as the Tigers closed their regular season with a less than artistic 59-54 loss to LSU.
That secured the Tiger' the worst record in the SEC this year at 4-12. With the victory LSU finished 6-12 in the conference and improved its overall mark to 16-13. Auburn is 12-15 overall going into Thursday's opening round SEC Tournament game vs. Florida at 6:30 p.m. CST at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "It is not a normal opening round game when you are playing a team that can win the national championship," Coach Cliff Ellis said.
Auburn's motion offense looked like it was in slow motion much of the first half. The Tigers scored just three points from the 13:28 mark of the first half to the the 4:18 mark allowing the visitors to build a lead they would never surrender even though Auburn made a strong run in the second half.
When asked for an explanation of his team's offensive woes, junior guard Derrick Bird said, "I think we are standing a little bit too much on offense. We are a young ball club and we just have to learn how to get this system down--keep playing without the ball. Coming out of high school, everybody is used to the plays going to them. It is just about team and you have got to learn how to move without the ball so everybody can get into the game."
Freshman Marco Killingsworth agreed with Bird and said the team is still trying to work out the kinks in Ellis' motion offense.
Killingsworth had a solid game, but he was the only member of the four freshmen who have seen extensive playing time to get much done vs. the Bayou Bengals. Killingsworth contributed nine points, which was second on the team behind junior Adam Harrington's 20 off the bench. The six-foot-eight freshman led the Tigers in rebounds with nine.
Mack McGadney was honored on Senior Day.
Ellis pointed out Auburn's lack of success on the offensive boards as a major problem on Saturday. His team managed just six the entire game while LSU had 14 as part of its 39-31 rebounding edge.
Auburn was charged with 17 turnovers, but it seemed like there were more. Many of the turnovers were of the very ugly and very unforced variety. LSU was credited with a dozen steals, which which were served on a silver platter.
LSU Coach John Brady credited his team's defensive play as the key to the victory and added that his team's advantages in free throw shooting and three-point shooting were the differences in the game. Harrington, who made four of 10 three-pointers, was the only Tiger to make a trey vs. LSU. The rest of the team was 0-9.
LSU made 7-12 three-pointers with Torris Bright burning Auburn with four-of-six shooting behind the arc. He scored 15 points and fellow guard Antonio Hudson led the visitors with 16 points and hit key baskets when Auburn was making a second half run. Bright also made key baskets when Auburn looked ready to get back into the game.
Despite all of the offensive unpleasantness, Auburn had a real chance to win the regular season finale until the closing seconds.
At the 4:25 mark, the Tigers got the crowd into the game with a fast break basket by freshman Brandon Robinson to cut the LSU lead to 53-46.
Auburn kept making defensive stops, however, neither team scored for the next three minutes. Finally, at the 1:27 mark, Marquis Daniels hit a running jumper in the lane to cut the gap to 53-48. That was just the fourth point for the team's leading scorer on the season, who fouled out with 30 seconds left and Auburn trailing 55-51 after an old-fashioned three-point play by Harrington. The junior converted a foul shot after being hammered on a layup that he rolled his ankle on.
However, Hudson made a pair of free throws to take the lead back to seven points with1:06 left and Charlie Thompson was four of four at the line to allow the visitors to get out of town with a 59-54 victory.
"We are playing defense great together, but offensively we just aren't clicking," Bird said.
When asked if the often out-of-sync looking Tigers were running plays when they are on the offensive end, Bird said, "We do have plays that we do run, but a lot of times we are in motion--screening and cutting. That has been tough for us to get down throughout the whole year."
Neither team could do much offensively early in the game. Auburn led 7-4 at the 14:53 mark, but LSU charged into the lead with a 17-4 run to build a 21-11 edge at the 9:27 mark. The lead stretched to 28-12 at the 4:41 mark.
At halftime, the Tigers trailed 34-20 after being outshot 39.3 percent to 31.6 percent from the field and outrebounded 20-14. Auburn warmed up to make 46.7 percent of its second half shots to finish at 40.8 percent for the game to LSU's 34.0.
Kyle Davis blocked eight shots but had just two rebounds for the Tigers.
In pregame ceremonies, a pair of walk-ons and injured forward Mack McGadney were honored on Senior Day. Guards Charlton Barker and Matt Baggett made their first starts and handled themselves well before Ellis put them on the bench less than two minutes into the action and no score in the game.
The Tigers now have five days to get ready for the SEC Tournament. In his postgame comments, Bird predicted the Tigers would play well against a talented Florida team in the SEC Tournament. "We are going to compete," he said. "There is no question we are going to play hard. I just wouldn't be surprised if we won the game."
However, despite Bird's words, few others are expecting anything out of the Tigers on Thursday at the Georgia Dome other than an end to a very disappointing season.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Killingsworth says he has been surprised at how tough college basketball has been for him. "I thought I was going to come in and dominate like I did in high school."...Auburn fans were not exactly impressed with the officiating work from the crew of Curtis Shaw, Tracy Woodson and Tim Clougherty. As they left the arena floor at halftime, one of the crew members responded to an obscene gesture made towards them with the same obscene gesture in response. That led to a confrontation inside the coliseum hallway with the officials and a campus policeman, who witnessed the official's gesture...LSU coach John Brady said he was impressed with Auburn's intensity and defensive performance. He said that in recent weeks his team has been playing defense as well as any he has ever coached while they have won four of six contests...Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said his team doesn't match up well with the Bayou Bengals because LSU is a physically stronger team. "I think that and Bright hitting some big shots was, I think, the difference in this basketball game."