Another wake-up call has hit the Plains.
Texas A&M hit clutch shots, Auburn couldn’t string together big runs, and the Auburn men’s basketball team saw its Senior Night spoiled by the Aggies in a 78-75 loss on Wednesday night in Auburn Arena.
Texas A&M had a counterpunch for most of Auburn’s shots. Auburn hardly ever hit more than two field goals without a Texas A&M answer between those shots. And by the buzzer, Auburn was headed into Saturday’s regular-season finale with its first and only home loss this season.
Auburn fell to 24-6 on the season and 11-6 in SEC play. Middling Texas A&M moved to 15-14, 9-8.
Auburn’s Samir Doughty led the team with 25 points in his final game on the Auburn Arena floor. Fellow senior Austin Wiley added 15 points.
But Auburn gave up 78 points to the lowest-scoring team in the SEC, Bruce Pearl pointed out after the loss, and found several issues to tweak before Saturday’s game at Tennessee and the SEC Tournament to follow.
“We’ve just got to play better,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “Our biggest thing it to try and play better. And 78 points is a lot of points to a team that averaged 65.
“Tennessee obviously left here playing well,” he said. “They’re playing well. We’ll have our hands full.”
Auburn trailed 33-26 at the half, after turning it over 13 times in the first half alone. Auburn started the second half on a 7-0 run, but after that, never again made any more than two unanswered field goals in a row.
Texas A&M led by nine at 76-67 with 46 seconds left, before Auburn chipped away in the final stages by fouling. After Auburn cut it to 78-75 with less than 10 seconds left, Danjel Purifoy’s last-second heave from deep fell off the back iron and harmlessly to the court.
Purifoy, Doughty and Wiley were honored before the game alongside fellow scholarship seniors Anfernee McLemore and J’Von McCormick. They will leave Auburn as the winningest senior class in Auburn history.
“It was definitely tough,” Doughty said, after walked off that court for the final time as a player. “We had expectations of winning this game but I guess they were the better team tonight. They forced us into a lot of turnovers and they played great defense.
“I mean, they deserved this one, but we could have played a lot better. On to the next game. Can’t really harp on this loss.”
Auburn tips off at Tennessee at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The SEC Tournament opens March 11. Auburn has secured a double-bye in the tournament as one of the top four seeds in the event, but could enter as high as the No. 2 seed or as low as the No. 4 seed depending on Saturday’s results.
“To be 16-1 at home and we’re going to be a top-four seed — this team has done a great job,” Pearl said. “This team has battled and competed and scrapped and clawed. They haven’t quit in any way, shape or form.”
Auburn’s five scholarship seniors were all contributors on the program’s first-ever run to the Final Four last season.
“It’s meant a lot,” Doughty said of his time at Auburn and of competing in front of the home fans. “It helped me grow as a person, as a basketball player. I appreciate the fans. Each and every game was exciting.
“But there's a lot more we have to do. We’re still focusing on winning a national championship. But I appreciate Auburn. It helped me grow as a person and as a basketball player.”