Auburn's win streak snapped by hot-shooting Mizzou
Auburn had been used to double-digit deficits as of late. It just hadn’t been used to seeing one on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounded.
Though it was without its most versatile defensive presence in freshman phenom Isaac Okoro, Auburn’s issues on defense likely couldn’t have been solved by just one player. Missouri shot 55% for the game and 54% from downtown as No. 11 Auburn fell to the black and gold Tigers 85-73, snapping a seven-game win streak for Bruce Pearl and company.
After a slump over the first few minutes, Mizzou started clicking and was white-hot, shooting 65% from the field and 63% from 3-point range in the first half.
"We weren't good defensively," said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl on AU radio after the game. "Missouri averages in the high 60s. They scored 85 tonight."
Guards Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson dropped 33 combined points in the first 20 minutes and finished with 28 points apiece. Pearl said if Okoro had been healthy, he would have defended both of them over the course of the game.
"Obviously, Isaac (Okoro) is our best defender," Pearl said.
Auburn opened the second half with strong efforts on the defensive end of the court, holding Mizzou without a basket for four minutes and cutting the lead down to five points. It hung around a single-digit deficit until freshman guard Devan Cambridge was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul with 9:59 left in the game.
Cambridge stepped on Missouri’s Javon Pickett’s leg after the two pulled each other down fighting for a rebound. Following the ejection, Missouri used the momentum to balloon the lead to 17 points, its largest of the evening.
Auburn ran much of its offense, especially in the second half, to senior center Austin Wiley, who scored 22 points and pulled down 10 boards — his first 20-point game since he dropped 25 against TCU his freshman year.
While Auburn made 20 of 28 shots inside the arc, it shot 6% (1-for-17) from 3-point land, its worse percentage from downtown in a game since it went 0-of-15 against Kentucky in 2013.
As a result, Auburn worked its way to the basket often, but the free-throw issues that have been present all year long persisted again. The Tigers went to the line 46 times and made 30.
"You score 73 points on the road, and you shoot 47% and get the foul line 46 times — those are some numbers that should win a basketball game," Pearl said.
The senior backcourt duo of J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty combined for 37 points, but there wasn’t much consistent offense beyond them. Auburn had just seven bench points with freshman Allen Flanigan replacing Okoro in the starting lineup. Anfernee McLemore, Danjel Purifoy, Cambridge and Jamal Johnson combined for nine points.
"Without [Okoro], we needed more from our bench," Pearl said. "We need more guys to step up. And we didn't get that."
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