Auburn 16-5 (6-2) lost its second consecutive game on Saturday against West Virginia. The Tigers trailed by sixteen at halftime, but cut the lead to one in the second half before ultimately losing 80-77.
The star of the day was West Virginia guard Erik Stevenson. Stevenson had prior success against Auburn when he was at South Carolina and he continued that success today-just in a different uniform. "Stevenson had the best game he's had. That's why we tried to recruit him," said Pearl. He finished with thirty-one points and knocked down seven three-pointers in the game.
Stevenson, however, was not the only issue for Auburn today. In the first half, the Tigers struggled to get much going offensively. "We turned the ball over too much...we got good looks early; just missed them," added Pearl. The Mountaineers pressured Auburn's guards forcing nine turnovers, and held Wendell Green Jr. to only three points. When paired with the hot offense of West Virginia, who shot fifty-five percent in the first half, this was not a recipe for success. For Auburn fans and the team alike, it felt all too similar to Wednesday night's loss to Texas A&M.
The second half of this game would be much different than the A&M game, however. Auburn had a plan offensively in the second-half, and they executed it very well. The plan was to get the ball to the paint. "We did a better job getting the ball inside," said Pearl. Broome finished with fifteen-points; all of which came in the second half. Williams led the team in scoring with eighteen-points of his own. It would take up to the near five-minute mark, but Auburn cut the lead to one at that point. However, the familiar face of Stevenson quickly responded with a three to extend the lead back to four. Auburn would once again cut the lead to one with approximately two-minutes to go, but were never able to take the lead. Despite all this, Wendell Green Jr. was still able to fire up a last second three to try and force the game to overtime, but was unable to convert.
For Auburn, the game was a tough pill to swallow. "This was real prize we missed," added Pearl. However, there is still much to be gained from their second-half showing. They showed grit and determination despite the seemingly insurmountable deficit. Now they will have to turn their attention back to SEC play as they look to snap their two-game losing streak. The good news for the Tigers is that they will be back at Neville Arena with a chance to get revenge on rival Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated Auburn earlier in the season in Athens, but the Tigers believe this time it will be a different result. Only time will tell what the rest of the season holds for this team, but the road ahead will not be easy.