Auburn (0-1) kicked off their season against a consensus top 20 squad, the Baylor Bears (1-0), falling 88-82 to the Bears. The Tigers were the only SEC team to kick its season off against a top-25 team and they put on a classic show in a classic arena as the teams clashed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at the famous Heritage Court.
The Tigers fought hard and played very well, battling on both ends of the court. Auburn’s signature full-court pressure had the team leading throughout a lot of the game. The defense as a whole played decently well tonight putting up 10 total blocks and five steals as a team against a good Baylor offense.
There will be teaching points and points of improvement on defense but playing a highly touted team like Baylor forced the Tigers to jump in the deep end and certainly was a good experience for the team.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl knows it should have and could have been an important win for the Tigers and the SEC as a whole.
"We held our own, but for me it's a missed opportunity," Pearl said. "This hurts the SEC, it hurts our league. We did not do what we came here to do. We're a better team than we played tonight.”
Auburn’s offense played well and the Tigers had the momentum for most of the game going into the locker room at the midpoint with a nine-point lead, but the Bears owned the final four minutes of the game, flipping the script on the Tigers, scoring 11 unanswered points after the 4:26 mark, resulting in a six point lead.
Baylor grabbed its first lead since the midway mark of the first half with just 2:30 left in the game. Auburn hung around but could not do the little things down the stretch and that is what ultimately hurt the Tigers.
Twelve Tigers saw action in the debut loss for Auburn. The ability to go twelve deep off the bench and trust everyone on the bench at any time frees up a lot for Bruce Pearl and enables this Auburn team to keep up an aggressive press and play fast in transition. This came in handy tonight especially as Auburn had six players reach four fouls or more, including Johni Broom fouling out with six.
"We played our bench in the second half," Pearl said after the loss. "We should have been the fresher team in the second half but we weren't. We've got to do a better job of defending without fouling. We were in foul trouble in the second half and didn't play as well in the second half as we did in the first."
Aden Holloway had a great debut, posting 19 points, six assists while tagging on three rebounds to round out his impressive first collegiate game.
Johni Broom debuted his season after an impressive NBA combine and deciding to return to Auburn. The center was able to put up a double-double to open this campaign, posting 16 points with 11 rebounds on an efficient 40 percent shooting from the field.
Baylor’s win was highlighted by the play of freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walker who posted 28 points and six rebounds on 53.8 percent shooting from the field shooting 57.1 percent from beyond the arc in his NCAA debut he lived up to the hype.
The Tigers are back in action Friday, November 10th for its Neville Arena season debut. Tipoff is at 7:00 pm CT and the game will be streaming on SECN+.