What should have been a great senior night was spoiled by a scrappy auburn team. I thought we played great in the first half. Were it not for poor free throw shooting and a few ridiculously bad calls we may have had an insurmountable lead at halftime. We had a good gameplan coming in. We pounded the ball into the post and did a good job of guarding the perimeter and getting back in transition defense.
I think we relaxed a bit after getting the 13 point lead, and we failed to handle auburn's adjustments. We were impatient against the zone in the second half, settling for poor outside shots rather than taking the time to work the ball down low. Auburn's only chance of coming back was to get into a jump shooting contest with us, and that is what we allowed to happen. There is no excuse for auburn getting so many offensive rebounds against us with our size advantage.
Once again, we showed we have no clue how to manage a close game late. We used our last timeout with 2:35 to play to avoid a jump ball, when we had the possession arrow. Then, with no timeouts and down 2, with only a 9 second difference in the shot clock and game clock, against one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country, we decided not to foul. Even if we get a stop there, we have to go the length of the floor and try to get off a shot in about 5 seconds.
Ted Valentine is one of the worst officials in the history of basketball. His officiating did not cost us the game, but he missed many what appeared to be blatantly obvious calls. He even made one call against us in the first half that the announcers couldn't even figure out what he called. I can think of another play in the first half where Senario was driving the lane and appeared to be pulled down by the waist from behind, with no call.
This probably won't be a popular opinion here, but I like the way this auburn team plays. I think Lebo could be a good coach if he would just recruit a decent big man every now and then. What they lack in size, they make up for with hustle. They scrap for every rebound and loose ball, set good screens, have good spacing on offense, and get after it on defense. If you can get past those ugly orange jerseys and the word "auburn" on their chest, they are a fun team to watch.
With the loss, we lose any hope of getting a first round bye at the SEC tournament in Tampa, meaning we will have to win 4 in a row in Tampa to make it to the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, auburn secures the 2nd sede in the West, thus getting their 20th win and a first round bye.
Up next, we travel to Knoxville, TN to close out the regular season against the Vols at 11 am Central time Sunday morning on CBS. A win at Tennessee would look good on our NIT resume if nothing else. If anyone wants tickets to that game, leave your email in the comments and I will hook you up. I had planned on going, but unfortunately I will still be stuck in Cali.