Believe the unbelievable.
Auburn clawed back from down double digits in the second half, J’Von McCormick’s miraculous floater rattled off the rim then up to the backboard and back in, and Auburn roared to a 91-90 thrilling comeback win over LSU in overtime on another magic Saturday afternoon on the Plains.
Auburn was down by as many as 14 in the second half. The Tigers were down eight with just a minute and a half left. And even after they erased that lead and forced overtime, LSU proved its mettle to go up by one again with nine seconds left in overtime.
But that’s when McCormick proved Auburn had another ounce of magic left in it. He moved left over a high screen on the game-winning play, cut into the key driving right with three seconds left, and then six-foot guard popped up his shot in among the forwards before it bounced off the back iron, up to the top of the backboard, then back off the inside of the rim and in with 0.1 seconds left.
The building gasped. Then went ballistic.
And Auburn charged into first place in the SEC standings.
“This Auburn basketball team is something,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl shook his head after the game.
Unbelievably, Auburn moved to 21-2 on the season and 8-2 in SEC play. LSU fell to 17-6 and 8-2. The game marked Auburn’s third overtime game in its last four games, after a big-fight-feel electrified Auburn Arena for a second straight Saturday in Auburn.
Senior guard Samir Doughty scored 26 points, his frantic game-tying layup with 19 seconds left in regulation finally erasing the lead LSU had built for most of the game. McCormick scored 23 points. He hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:07 of the second half to help key the comeback.
Freshman Devan Cambridge scored 21 points on seven 3-pointers, draining two in overtime including one wrapped around two by Doughty as Auburn hit three straight 3-pointers to open overtime and Auburn Arena seemed to shake.
“Especially in front of the AU Jungle — we can’t disappoint at home,” McCormick smiled after the win.
It took a heroic effort from all three of them to make the win happen. LSU led by 12 at the half, its hyper-efficient offense hitting 50-percent of its shots in the first half after entering the building with the SEC’s best shooting efficiency from the floor.
Then even after Auburn’s 3-pointer barrage put the home team up 83-76 with 3:43 left in overtime, LSU chipped back away, and then took the lead on an Emmitt Williams slam dunk to make it 90-89 with nine seconds left on the clock.
That’s when Auburn turned to McCormick. Pearl said McCormick executed the play well, utilizing his speed off of a Wiley screen at the top of the key, then getting a running look inside.
“He stepped up,” Doughty said of his fellow senior. “That’s what we expected. We wanted the ball in his hands. Coach wanted the ball in his hands.
“And he just delivered.”
Auburn’s overtime win caps a wild two weeks for Auburn, after the Tigers came back from down 19 at Ole Miss, then won an epic throwdown with Kentucky last Saturday, and then beat Arkansas using an 11-point comeback on Tuesday.
Somehow, Auburn did it again.
“It’s one of the better comebacks of my career, because of what was at stake and just how much we were down late, to such a good team in a championship-type game,” Pearl said. “I can’t think of many bigger.”
Auburn steps into first place with eight games left in the SEC standings.
“We got a veteran group, and we’re going to fight till the end and till the whistle blows,” Doughty said. “So we knew, if we made a few shots, we could be right back into the game. So we wasn’t panicking whatsoever.”
Austin Wiley scored 10 points with 13 rebounds.
Cambridge’s 21 came up big as regular starter Danjel Purifoy missed the game, out with the flu per a team spokesperson.
It’s the second-most he’s scored this season, after a 26-point breakthrough performance against South Carolina — and this one probably couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Coach told us we needed to step up,” Cambridge said. “Somebody’s got to step up. That’s what I came to do.”
Doughty and McCormick giggled at some of the freshman’s answers in the postgame press conference. Then afterward the final question, Doughty slammed his hand down on the table in jubilation. Afterward, Cambridge and Isaac Okoro were among players taking up extra shots in the gym as crew cleaned the arena, while Charles Barkley looked on — in the building for Auburn’s lettermen’s day along with Chris Porter, members of the 1960 SEC Championship team and plenty more Tiger legends.
Indeed, for them Saturday, just as the fans chant, it was great to be an Auburn Tiger.
Auburn basketball is soaring, the Tigers are in first place, and the next game is another big one.
Auburn hosts rival Alabama at 6 p.m. Wednesday with revenge on the mind.