By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Tyler Harris said he didn't know that every shot he was putting up was going in.
"I wasn't aware at all. I was just playing, trying to get back in the game."
The Auburn forward hit his first nine shots and scored 22 points, but it wasn't enough to stop unbeaten South Carolina from beatingAuburn 81-69 Tuesday night to improve to 14-0 overall in their Southeastern Conference opener. Auburn, which won its SEC opener on Saturday, fell to 7-6 overall, slipping because of a slow start and a season-high 21 turnovers.
"We're playing a team that is undefeated, playing them at home, and it takes about 10 minutes before we turn it up and really compete," said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.
"It took us awhile," Harris said, "to calm down."
Auburn's early mistakes hurt allowed the Gamecocks to set the tone of the game.
"I thought half of our 21 turnovers were just plays that we lost composure and just didn't take care of it," Pearl said. And Harris said the turnovers "really affected us."
South Carolina led by 18 with three minutes left in the first half, but a 6-0 run by Auburn, or to be specific, by Harris, cut the Gamecocks' lead to 59-51 with 11:30 remaining. The Tigers made it 59-54 on a Bryce Brown 3-pointer with 10:48 left as a crowd of 7,556 in Auburn Arena cheered on.
"The atmosphere in that building has become tremendous," said South Carolina coach Frank Martin.
But the Gamecocks would eventually quieten the crowd despite Harris' steady night and 21 points from Kareem Canty.
"Tyler was terrific," Pearl said. "He was 10 of 13. We were begging the guys to throw it Tylin there."
Harris had nine 2-point baskets. The rest of the Tigers combined for three.
Auburn, with a short bench because of injuries to three guards, had five players play at least 31 minutes each. Harris and Canty almost went the whole way.
Auburn was its own worst enemy in the first half, committing 15 turnovers, a number so high that it threatened the season-high 17 it committed in the entire game against Tennessee.
There was little wonder, then, that South Carolina led 43-30 at the half and kept the pressure on Auburn in the second half.
The Gamecocks relied on the 3 in the first half, like Auburn, and apparently a finesse brand of basketball. Auburn fans cheered when South Carolina was called for its first foul eight minutes into the game.
Auburn will try to rebound at Missouri at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine