Turnovers Too Much For Tigers To Overcome

Despite holding their own on the boards, turnovers killed the Auburn Tigers in Saturday's loss to Arkansas at home.

Auburn, Ala.--Guard Ronnie Brewer scored 26 points and Jonathan Modica added 17 as the Arkansas Razorbacks survived a drought of nearly 11 minutes without a field goal in the second half to defeat the Auburn Tigers 68-52 Saturday afternoon at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

The loss drops Auburn to 8-7 overall and 0-4 in the SEC while Arkansas improves to 13-5, 2-3 in league play.

Turnovers and free throws were the story of the day for both teams as Auburn forced 19 Arkansas turnovers, but committed 23 of its own to negate the advantage. Despite a huge size differential the rebounding was even at 35. The difference came at the free throw line where Arkansas made 21-25 compared to just 10-17 for the Tigers.

"Turnovers kill us," Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo said. "It's very frustrating as a coach. We've stressed it. We've explained it. We've shown it. It's the first thing on the board, ‘Value the ball.' We can't win and we have a slim margin for error anyhow. When we turn the ball over 23 times and they really don't press us that much, you're not going to beat many people. We had 15 and I felt decent. We had 15 turnovers at halftime and we were down four. We should have been down 17 or 20. It's hard to overcome that when we have a hard time scoring. That was the difference in the game. And I thought Brewer was terrific in this game."

The key run in this game came early in the second half and in unusual fashion. Leading 52-36 on Modica's field goal with 13:45 remaining in the contest, Arkansas went on a field goal drought of mammoth proportions. Over the next 10 minutes and 56 seconds the Razorbacks wouldn't score from the field. However, thanks to several very questionable calls from an officiating crew that seemed determined to intervene in the game, the Hogs kept nearly their entire lead before their next basket.

Working to cut into the lead the Tigers got a free throw by freshman forward Joey Cameron to cut the lead to 15. Back-to-back lay-ups by Rasheem Barrett and Ronny LeMelle pushed the advantage back to 11 before LeMelle rained a three-pointer from long distance to make the Arkansas lead just eight with 11:57 remaining.

Freshman Rasheem Barrett makes a lay-up for two of his 12 points. Ronny LeMelle led Auburn in scoring with 16 points as the two were the only in double figures for the Tigers.

That's the way things would stay for several possessions before a jumper by Quantez Robertson cut the lead to just six with 10:34 left. That's when the officials seemed to take things into their own hands. With the taller and more physical Hogs pushing the ball in the paint they begin to draw foul after foul from the Tigers. In fact, over a span of just less than four minutes Auburn was whistled for seven fouls and the Razorbacks shot 10 free throws, making seven.

Without the benefit of a single basket the Razorbacks pushed their lead from six back to 13 and in essence put the game away. During that stretch came one of the two key plays in the game. Trailing by eight and with the ball, Auburn's Josh Dollard missed a lay-up that keyed an Arkansas fast break. Following a miss by the Razorbacks Barrett rebounded the ball but LeMelle was called for a questionable push underneath the basket. Not liking the call, Lebo argued for a moment before turning his back with a wave. That drew a technical foul from official Lee Cassell and Brewer made three of four free throws to give Arkansas some breathing room.

"We had to generate some juice," Lebo said. "Inside we were getting nothing. There size was too great for our young kids. They were too big and we couldn't get anything done in there. We tried to spread them and use some energy guys. We made a run at it and then we make two bad plays in a row and they capitalize on it. We tried to cut it to four and it went back to 10 or 12.

"We have a hard time making simple basketball plays. Passing and catching has been difficult for us and it's been in the half court situation, which is frustrating. It's not been in a full court situation, it's been in a half court situation. I think their size and length had a lot to do with that."

The Razorbacks were able to sustain and build onto their lead down the stretch thanks to an Auburn team that continues to have problems scoring late in conference games. After cutting the lead back to nine with 7:21 remaining on a lay-up by Korvotney Barber, Auburn managed just two more points the rest of the way on free throws by Daniel Hayles. Arkansas won going away 68-52 and Lebo said that he's not sure if the team ever got back in rhythm following the run by Arkansas at the free throw line.

"We didn't capitalize on our opportunities," LeMelle said. "After we started on a run we didn't capitalize on the little things to keep it going. We were missing open shots, not getting offensive rebounds. They went down and got a couple of easy baskets and the next thing we knew it was too late to get back in the game."

Joey Cameron played well in limited minutes for the Tigers on Saturday.

The first half was a microcosm of the second in many ways as the Tigers battled hard through the early stages of the half only to see a call change the momentum of the game. Coming out of the gate strong Auburn took the lead on baskets by Robertson and LeMelle. Eventually the lead built to as many as five on a three-point basket by Hayles making the score 14-9. Auburn didn't trail again until a lay-up and free throw by Brewer with 3:27 remaining in the half gave the Hogs a 25-23 advantage.

Auburn held onto the lead at 29-27 with another LeMelle basket, but that's when fouls and free throws began to flare up against the Tigers. A foul on Robertson sent Charles Thomas to the line where he made both to tie the game. Moments later Hayles was called for an intentional foul on Brewer after he attempted to block a shot on a lay-up. Despite it being nowhere close to an intentional foul the Hogs hit two free throws and following with a Thomas basket moments later to close the half on a 6-0 run and lead by four at the break. That set the stage for a similar finish to the game as the Hogs won on the road for the first time this season.

"They've got a very talented team," Lebo said of the Razorbacks. "They've got a difference maker in Brewer. When things go poorly and they need someone to make plays, they've got a guy there in him they can go to who can score a bucket, make a steal and get to the foul line. He can do a lot of things for them. And they're so big compared to us. (Darian) Townes didn't have a great game, but I think he's going to be a factor for them scoring. In the first half our 1-3-1 was good, defense wasn't an issue, it was just the turnovers."

' The loss by the Tigers spoils a career day for Cameron, who finished with a career-high 13 rebounds, three points and one blocked shot in only 17 minutes of action. On the other end of the spectrum was sophomore guard Frank Tolbert. One of Auburn's most experienced players, he scored just two points and had seven turnovers before fouling out after 17 minutes of action. Lebo said that's something they have to remedy if this team is to improve heading into the heart of SEC play.

"I think that's the best he's played," Lebo said of Cameron. "I told Joey if we didn't get down so much we would have played him more. I thought he was terrific rebounding the basketball. I told him, ‘If you'll just screen, rebound, make lay-ups, be a physical presence and defend then you're going to play for us.' He had 13 rebounds in 17 minutes.

"Frank's the guy we've got to get playing. Seventeen minutes and he has five fouls and seven turnovers. That's not what we need. I don't know. We have a hard time because he can make plays out there for us when we need them, but it's hard to do that when he's turning it over as much and getting into foul problems."

The Tigers return to action Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when they take on the Kentucky Wildcats at home in a game televised nationally by ESPN. The Wildcats enter at 12-6 overall, 2-2 in SEC play, following a wild victory over South Carolina at home Saturday.

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