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No. 1 Auburn suffers first loss since November, falling to Arkansas 80-76

The No. 1 ranked Auburn Tigers traveled up to Fayetteville, Arkansas tonight to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena. The Tigers came into this contest after surviving a scare against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens on Saturday, winning 74-72. Arkansas came into this one after knocking off Mississippi State at home on Saturday, winning 63-55. The starting five for Auburn tonight were K.D. Johnson, Wendell Green JR., Allen Flanigan, Jabari Smith, and Walker Kessler. Auburn was once again missing starting point guard Zep Jasper. The starters for Arkansas were Stanley Umude, JD Notae, Toney Au’diese, Trey Wade, and Jaylin Williams. The Tigers were looking to extend the longest winning streak in the country to 20 games.

Jabari Smith was the first Tiger to score, hitting a mid-range jumper 1:30 into the game. Walker Kessler hit a three-pointer followed by a block which helped Auburn get moving offensively. Arkansas took their first lead of the night after a three-pointer from Stanley Umude to make the score 12-11. With 8:26 remaining in the first half, the Razorbacks had a 23-13 lead. Dillion Cardwell’s dunk at the 6:40 mark was Auburn’s first bucket in what felt like an eternity. 

At half time, Arkansas led 28-25. Auburn’s leading scorer was Walker Kessler with seven points. The Tigers only had two assists as a team, one for K.D. Johnson and one for Wendell Green JR. The leading rebounder for Auburn was Walker Kessler with nine. The leading scorer for Arkansas was JD Notae with eight points. They had five players with one assist each. The leading rebounder for the Razorbacks was Chris Lykes with four. 

Jabari Smith got the first points of the second half by drawing an “and one”, which brought the score to a tie at 28. An alley-oop from Wendell Green JR. to Walker Kessler gave Auburn some energy around the 15:00 mark. Both sides stayed strong defensively as the second half rolled on. Devan Cambridge hit a three-pointer at the 9:43 mark to snap a 7-0 Arkansas run. With 3:40 left to play, the score was tied at 59. Regulation was not enough, as the game was tied at 66 when the clock hit zero in the second half.

Defense remained the theme into overtime as points remained few and far between. Walker Kessler picked up his fifth fouls with one minute left in the overtime period. Jabari Smith hit a three-pointer with 28 seconds left to cut the Arkansas led to three. 

When it was all said and done, Arkansas won 80-76. Auburn’s leading scorer was Jabari Smith with 20 points. Wendell Green JR. led the Tigers in assists with five. Walker Kessler led the team in rebounds with 19. Arkansas’ leading scorer was JD Notae with 28 points, he was also their leader in assists with three. Jaylin Williams led the Razorbacks in rebounds with 11.

During Bruce Pearl’s statement he said, “I thought we played well defensively, but we sent them to the line too much”. Coach Pearl was asked about what could have gone better. He said, “We got to do a better job of getting Jabari into some better playmaking situations”. Coach Pearl was also asked about how much he missed Zep Jasper. He answered, “Zep is the best on-ball defender in the league, and he does not turn the ball over”.

Auburn will be looking to bounce back on Saturday when the College Gameday and the Texas A&M Aggies come to Auburn Arena. The game will tip off at noon.

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