Call it miraculous. Call it magic.
Call it whatever. But there’s a reason Auburn has been undeniable in comeback wins and under bright lights over the last two weeks, the Tigers say.
No matter who they’re facing or what mountain there is left to climb, this Auburn team keeps its confidence.
This Auburn team believes.
And that confidence builds well before those lights turn on and the Tigers step on the big stage.
In three out of Auburn’s last four wins, the Tigers have come back from being down in the second half by 19 at Ole Miss, by 11 at Arkansas and by 14 against LSU, charging back to win all three games in overtime with a Saturday showdown epic with Kentucky sandwiched between them.
Auburn trailed LSU by eight with 1:26 left in regulation Saturday and somehow surged back to win it.
At no point, though, did Auburn panic, senior guard Samir Doughty said.
At no point did the Tigers ever drop that unshakable confidence.
“I feel as though everybody has the right to be confident when you’re working on your game, you’re working on your shots and free throws each and every day,” Doughty said postgame Saturday, as Auburn Arena emptied and the celebrated shifted to Toomer’s Corner. Auburn won its sixth straight game and jumped to 21-2 on the season and 8-2 in SEC play, while also moving into first place in the SEC standings.
“So why not be confident if we put the work in?” he shrugged.
Auburn fans saw a similar fiery confidence in Auburn’s team last year in the postseason, though this belief brings itself to the floor in different ways this year. That team never blinked in the face of blueblood after blueblood in the NCAA Tournament, firing 3-pointers at will seemingly thinking that every single one would go in and that the team could go toe-to-toe with any team.
This year, Auburn seems simply unshakable even when things aren’t going the team’s way, and even when the team is down big without much time left.
J’Von McCormick is another senior like Doughty who was a part of that run last year. He said Friday before the LSU game that Auburn’s returners try to instill that confidence in its new freshmen this year. Then Saturday, he scored the game-winner unassisted with 0.1 seconds left to life Auburn to its 91-90 overtime win.
“I felt like it came off my hands pretty good,” McCormick smiled after the game. “I work on those shots all the time. It was just nothing to me.”
Doughty said since Auburn has a veteran team he knew it was going to fight until the final whistle blew on Saturday. Then he took outsiders in the huddle with what Auburn’s mentality is when down big:
“We just take it possessions at a time and four-minute segments at a time,” Doughty explained. “Whenever we’re down, we just try to win each four-minute segment by a few points, and we know we’ll be capable of coming back and cutting certain leads.”
Auburn beat Ole Miss 83-82 double-overtime on Jan. 28. Then came Auburn’s wild 75-66 win over Kentucky on Feb. 1 in Auburn. Last Tuesday, Auburn came back to beat Arkansas 79-76 in overtime after another big comeback.
Then came what was surely the most impressive comeback yet, against then-league-leading LSU on Saturday.
LSU has won five games in the SEC this season by four points or fewer, showing an uncanny mettle in close games and an admirable refusal to lose.
Then LSU met Auburn, who showed its own mettle.
“If you’re going to win a game like that against a team like that, you have to have special,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We had a lot of special.”
Auburn hosts rival Alabama on Wednesday with revenge in play. The Tigers lost to the Tide in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 15.
Wednesday’s tipoff is set for 6 p.m. and the game is set to be broadcast on ESPN2.