Coach Cliff Ellis' team won a defensive struggle, 52-37, on Saturday against the slumping Arkansas Razorbacks. The Tigers improved their record to 13-2 on the season against Coach Stan Heath's team, which falls to 5-8 overall and 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference.
Senior guard Derrick Bird led the Tigers with 11 points and his usual strong defensive performance. He and Arkansas freshman guard Kendrick Davis were the only players who scored in double figures in a game in which Arkansas had its lowest point total ever at Bud Walton Arena. Davis scored 11 for the Razorbacks and led his team in rebounds with five.
Coach Cliff Ellis said Auburn's 40-minute defensive effort was the difference in what he called the most physical game of the season with the exception of Auburn's homecourt 82-70 victory over Rutgers of the Big East back on Dec. 8th. The Tigers held the Razorbacks to just 32.1 percent shooting for the game, including a dismal 2-20 on three-pointers.
Auburn, which normally shoots better than 50 percent from the field, was held to 39.6 percent for the game. The Tigers hit 3-12 three-pointers and were 11-18 at the free throw line. Arkansas hit just 1-5 free throws.
It was just the second win for Auburn in a dozen trips to Fayetteville for basketball games. The only other Tiger victory was a 100-89 decision at old Barnhill Arena in 1993.
Auburn outrebounded the Razorbacks 38-31 in the physical test that featured 47 turnovers. Auburn had 23, one less than the home team.
Marquis Daniels scored 10 points for the Tigers and added five rebounds. Marco Killingsworth scored eight points for Auburn and led all rebounders with nine. Kyle Davis, who replaced Nathan Watson in the starting lineup, added points as did Brandon Robinson, the reserve forward making his second appearance of the season.
Auburn took an early 10-4 lead as both teams struggled to score points in the first half. The Razorbacks outscored Auburn 15-2 to take their largest lead of the game at 19-12 with 3:22 left in the first half. Auburn regained its composure and went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 19-19 on an inside basketball by Killingsworth.
At the break the home team led 22-21. Arkansas had won five of the six games it lead at halftime, but the Tigers changed that trend by more than doubling the Razorbacks in the second half, 31-15.
Auburn took the lead for good on two free throws by Nathan Watson to put the Tigers on top 34-32 and at the 4:15 mark Auburn led 38-32 on an inside basket by Killingsworth.
The home team could never make a serious run after that and the Tigers steadily pulled away for the victory.
"I think the big point in the game was when Derrick Bird hit a three," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "That gave them a lift and seemed to take the air out of our sails at the same time. We'd been hanging in there pretty good." That shot from the corner put Auburn up 43-35 with just under two minutes to play.
Auburn's Ellis said he was proud of his team for not backing down from the physical challenge of the Razorbacks' defense and the mental challenge of winning on the road. "Our team withstood it and met the physical challenge," he said.
The Tigers return to action on Wednesday with a 6:30 p.m. CST tipoff in Columbia, S.C., at the University of South Carolina's new arena.
Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn held the Razorbacks to 28 points under their scoring average for the season...Auburn's last road victory in SEC play was a 76-65 victory over LSU on Jan. 13th, 2001...Blake Eddins, the senior guard for the Razorbacks from Montgomery, played briefly and did not score. A former starter for the Razorbacks, Eddins is the older brother of Auburn defensive end Bret Eddins...The Arkansas game was the first of an SEC stretch of games that includes four of five contests on the road. The only home game in that stretch is next Saturday vs. Alabama...Cliff Ellis improved his all-time record to 6-12 vs. the Razorbacks. It was the first time he had faced new Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, who replaced controversial Nolan Richardson...Auburn and Florida are tied for the most victories of any SEC team with 13...The officiating crew of Larry Rose, Rick Crawford and Alan Spainhour let both teams be very physical. Auburn was whistled for 15 fouls, nine fewer than the home team.
Read Clay Henry's report on the game on the link from Hawgs Illustrated: