Auburn basketball focuses on defense, rebounds from losses
The Auburn men's basketball team started the season 4-1 before dropping two games against No. 17 Iowa State and Illinois. Following a revisit in practice during the 11-day layoff to the defensive mindset that brought the Tigers to their early .800 win mark, Auburn won back-to-back games against Clemson and Boston College.
Auburn (6-3) defeated Clemson (5-3) 66-64 Dec. 19 and Boston College (6-3) 77-67 Dec. 22.
“Hopefully [those losses] opened everybody’s eyes that the things that we have to do that need to become our identity, we’re not doing them,” head coach Tony Barbee said during the layoff. “We’ve got to be a gritty, grimy, dirty defensive identity type team. That’s what we work on, that’s what I preach. That message hasn’t gotten across quite yet.”
After giving up 180 points in the previous two games with their previous not-so-gritty defense, Auburn was able to hold Clemson to 64 points. It took 4-of-6 free throws made in the final 43 seconds and Chris Denson's game-high 19 points to topple the Tigers of the Atlantic Coast Conference in their first meeting in Alabama since 1935 and the first matchup since an NIT game in 1993.
Auburn almost matched their defensive effort Saturday when the Tigers held Boston College to 67 points. The 10-point victory was credited to Auburn's hot start behind the 3-point line; Auburn hit 10 of its first 18 attempts.
KT Harrell scored a career-high 29 points with six 3-pointers; point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen contributed14 points, six of which came from 2-of-3 shooting beyond the arc.
The Tigers will look to continue the two-game streak against Arkansas Pine-Bluff (2-9) Dec. 30 and Florida A&M (2-10) Jan. 4.