Auburn stole another one.
The sly Tigers came back from down big to beat Arkansas 79-76 in overtime on Tuesday night on the road, pulling off the heist by coming back from 11 points down in the second half, then riding off to the Plains with another improbable victory.
Auburn closed regulation on a 15-4 run then won the overtime period 10-7, surging to the team’s 20th win of the season after the Tigers trailed 65-54 with six minutes left in the second half.
The win harkened back to Auburn’s 19-point comeback against Ole Miss last week.
Somehow, Auburn did it again.
Auburn moved to 20-2 overall and 7-2 in SEC play. Arkansas fell to 16-6 and 4-5.
Samir Doughty scored 23 points for Auburn as seen on SEC Network, helping to counter the Razorbacks’ sharp shooting on the night in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. J’Von McCormick added 16 points for Auburn and Isaac Okoro added another 14.
Arkansas star Mason Jones scored 40 points as the Razorbacks gave the No. 11 Tigers everything they wanted.
It marked Auburn’s fifth straight win, and a second unlikely comeback in the last week alone. Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl knew that as well as anyone.
“They say you’d rather be lucky than good sometimes,” he said to open his postgame interview, on the air with the Auburn Sports Network’s radio broadcast of the game.
“I’m very happy with the win,” he also said before continuing: “We can play a lot better as a team. We can make each other better as a team. We can play tougher and more physically. And we’ll need to because LSU comes in Saturday and they are the best team in the league.”
Whereas this marked a second consecutive road overtime game for Auburn, Saturday with mark a second consecutive top-25 showdown in Auburn Arena. Just seven days after its epic with Kentucky, Auburn is set to host No. 18 LSU (17-4, 8-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
On Tuesday night, Auburn’s shootout with Arkansas was a streaky game loaded with big scoring runs and lengthy momentum swings. But Auburn got the last big one, putting the clamps down on Arkansas down the stretch of regulation. Then late in overtime, after Jones scored his 40th point to make it 77-76 in the waning moments, Doughty drained two clutch free throws to make it 79-76 with nine seconds left. Jones’ last-ditch shot on the other side fell wide and the Tigers survived.
“I know how important this win was,” Doughty said on the radio. “This is a hostile environment. This is one of the hardest places in the country to get a win.
“But we fought,” he said. “We fought.”
Sharp-shooting Arkansas hit 10 of its first 17 3-point shots in the game. The Razorbacks charged to go up by 11 with a 13-2 run that turned a 50-50 game with 11:18 left in the second half into a 63-52 lead for Arkansas with 7:39 left in regulation. Arkansas led by 11 again at 65-54 with 5:59 left.
But that’s when Auburn turned back on its late-game magic. McCormick scored nine of Auburn’s next 15 points and the teams went to overtime tied 69-69.
McCormick seemed to flip a switch after his No. 5 jersey happened to be ripped in the run of play. He wore a spare No. 55 jersey and soon after went on his run. Doughty said postgame that Pearl jokingly said McCormick should wear No. 55 the rest of the season.
The first half had the same kind of runs. Auburn led 34-32 at the half after Arkansas led by as many as seven in the first half. A 7-0 run by Arkansas in the first half was countered by an 11-0 run by Auburn. They went back and forth all the way to overtime.
Doughty scored Auburn’s first eight points, the senior stepping up early in similar fashion to when he scored 10 of Auburn’s first 14 points in last Saturday’s win over Kentucky. Auburn led by five early at 18-13 before Arkansas went on a 10-0 run to go up 23-18.
Pearl said Doughty battled a cold this week and didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday before stepping up in the game to lead the team in scoring.