Auburn had won five-consecutive games before Sunday's blowout loss, but the personnel losses for the Tigers forced Jeff Lebo's team into play zone against a team that has now made 42 three-pointers in the last three games. The Musketeers tied their school record of 16 made threes for the second consecutive game.
"They've shot the ball so well in the last three games," Lebo said of Xavier. "Our chance was for them to go 6-26, not 16-26. They're good. They can really shoot the ball. They're experienced, they're tough.
"Our hope was playing a lot of zone and that in the first half they don't make shots," he added. "They made a couple in the first half with one second on the shot clock. They're dad-gum good and experienced.
"We ran out of gas. We really do get gassed," Lebo continued. "We couldn't play them man-to-man the whole game, or even close to the whole game because of fatigue and also they're very good against man-to-man. Their last game against Virginia, I believe they were 14-20 before they took their starters out."
Xavier has now made 42-69 threes in the last three outings. It was 10-16 in the first half against Auburn.
"We knew that because they were short on numbers and because they change defenses so much that we would see a lot of everything," Xavier head coach Sean Miller stated. "Tonight was a night where we made the shots.
"Altogether, the way we executed, even if we didn't have a great night shooting we could have gotten enough offense," he added. "I know at halftime we had 15 assists on 15 field goals. We created some shots."
The Musketeers had made 26-43 three-point attempts in the last two games against Kansas State and Virginia, and the first half against Auburn was no different. They hit 10-16 from long range and 65.2 percent of their first half field goals, compared to just 4-14 on threes and 33.3 percent from the field for Auburn.
Auburn actually had a 17-16 lead after a Rasheem Barrett three from the corner seven and a half minutes in, but the Tigers fell into a funk offensively and were forced into bad shots while the Musketeers kept scoring on the other end. Xavier went on a 20-2 run over the next seven minutes to take a commanding 36-19 advantage.
The Tigers started to get things going again with a Quan Prowell layup, foul, plus free throw and a three from Larry Williams, Jr. on consecutive possessions. However, Stanley Burrell buried a fade-away three from the corner as the 35-second clock expired and B.J. Raymond hit another three with a man in his face to end the first half.
Barrett said of after the game, "A couple of times I was like, ‘Wow!' You've got to give credit where credit is due. They shot the ball tremendously. Obviously they've practiced shooting the ball before coming into this game."
Xavier led 42-25 at that point, but came out flat to start the second half. Auburn scored the next 11 points starting with a Prowell three-point play the old fashioned way. Reed followed it with another three-point play beating the Xavier defense down the court and drawing a foul, and Barrett came off a screen at the top of the key and sank a three to cut it to six at 42-36.
Barrett hits one of Auburn's 10 threes.
"We just came out and played defense like we started off the game," Auburn point guard Quantez Robertson noted. "We tried to come out intense and we tried to play with a lot more enthusiasm on defense and try to the start the first four or five minutes out on a good note."
Raymond and Burrell swung the momentum back to the Xavier side with 10 quick points as their team scored the next 13 points. During that stretch, all five of Auburn's players on the court missed at least one three-point attempt, most of which were open. The Tigers failed to score for the next three minutes as Xavier opened its advantage to 19 points.
"We made a good run for ourselves," Barrett explained, "but they were shooting the ball tremendously. They're an experienced team, they know what to do in situations like that and they did it. It was a great job by them. We as a team need to take that and learn from it and that's what we've got to do in the future. They played a great ball game."
From that point on, Xavier dominated Auburn. The Tigers' deficit grew to as much as 33 points.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well," Lebo said. His team made just 19-53 shots from the field and 10-30 threes. "When you're little like that we have no inside game... none. That's hard for us to get good lucks. Our kids battled, but they're a very, very good basketball team."
Lucas Hargrove, with a cast on his left hand, scored 11 points late in the game and was 3-3 behind the arch. He tied Barrett and Frank Tolbert as the Tigers' leading scorer despite playing just seven minutes.
"He made some shots," Lebo said of Hargrove. "That's not his game. I don't know if that's good or bad. I haven't seen him make three ever all in a row.
"Quan didn't shoot the ball particularly well for us and he got some good looks," he added. "Frank, DeWayne Reed, we just need to shoot the ball better from the perimeter."
Raymond was the leading scorer for Xavier despite shooting just eight shots. All eight were from three-point range, and six went through the basket. Drew Lavender chipped in 15, Burrell had 13, Josh Duncan had 12 and Derrick Brown had 11, including a nasty dunk over Tolbert in the second half. Brown was the leading rebounder with seven as the Musketeers out-rebounded Auburn 32-22.
"They're 13 in the RPI and I know they're not ranked, but that's a bunch of bull," Lebo stated.
"When they shoot like that they're going to beat a lot of people. They've got a nice team. They've got a little bit of everything is what's impressive. Their backcourt (Lavender and Burrell), they've got a three-to-one assist-to-turnover, both are seniors, both are shooting well over 40 percent from threes and over 90 percent from the foul line."
"We generally play nine players, but seven of our nine play most of the minutes," Miller said. "We felt that would be our advantage against Auburn.
"It was great to finish our non-conference with a great road win against a team from this conference, which everybody respects a great deal."
Auburn begins SEC play at home on Thursday against Arkansas at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
Tiger Ticket Notes
Lebo gave an update on the status a pair of the injured Tigers. Of freshman Boubacar Sylla, who is out with an ankle injured, the head coach said, "He's improving, but he's still not ready to practice yet, so he's still a ways away." Forward Korvotney Barber also has a broken left hand suffered on Dec. 29 against Towson. "The surgery went good. They put some pins in there. That happened on Friday and he's got a big cast on it right now. It's four weeks that he can't do anything from the time he had his surgery."