Cinmeon Bowers gives a thumbs up to Auburn fans while helping the Tigers to Saturday's win
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Bruce Pearl said he told Cinmeon Bowers not to think of himself as undersized center but a do-it-all forward.
Center. Forward. Wannabe guard on a breakaway. It doesn't seem to matter to Cinmeon Bowers. He recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds to help Auburn beat Missouri 85-79 Saturday night before an excited crowd of 8,365 in Auburn Arena.
It was Pearl's first SEC win at Auburn after 65 of them at Tennessee, this coming with Charles Barkley looking on.
Auburn rallied from an eight-point second-half deficit to improve to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in the SEC. Missouri fell to 7-8 overall and 1-1 in the league.
Pearl's reaction to Bowers' big night?
"He guarded better," Pearl said.
Pearl said he wants Bowers to be such a complete player.
"I want Cim to look at himself more as a forward than an undersized center," Pearl said. "Forwards guard. Forwards make free throws. Forwards even take 3s and make them."
Bowers did all of that Saturday night. Pearl's critique was a little tougher after a Tuesday loss at Vanderbilt.
"My big thing was, 'I'm not satisfied, are you?'"
Auburn led 41-40 at the half, but Missouri scored the first nine points to start the second half. Auburn started a comeback from there, and seemed to really take off when Bowers was fouled hard — a flagrant foul was called — and the Tigers overtook Missouri from there.
"I like when the other team talks junk. It sparked me up," Bowers said.
Missouri coach Kim Anderson said Bowers "certainly makes a difference."
"When he misses, he almost always gets it back. And he plays really hard. It just seems like he's got another gear," Anderson said.
Bowers had plenty of help. Five Tigers scored in double figures. Joining Bowers were KT Harrell with 14, K.C. Ross-Miller with 13, and Malcolm Canada and Tahj Shamsid-Deen with 10 each.
"Five guys in double figures. Balance. Five guys on the defensive end. Balance," Pearl said.
The first half was a 3-point shooting contest. Auburn hit six of them, half of the field goals it made. At one point, the Tigers had three 3-pointers and no 2-pointers. Missouri hit five 3-pointers in the first half. By game's end, the teams combined for 20 3-pointers.
"We made 10 threes, and we had to because 2-point baskets are tough to come by," Pearl said. "I don't have a lot of guys, when five guys are back defensively, that can make 2-point baskets."
Pearl said Auburn crowd helped down the stretch.
"This was a good environment tonight for college basketball," Pearl said. "The students weren't all back. But the place was practically full. They were pretty into the game from the very beginning, and we can't beat Missouri without them."
One of the 8,365? Charles Barkley.
"We've got one of the greatest all-time players in the history of the game, one of the Top 50 players of all-time, and a great friend of our program," Pearl said. "For Charles to come back and just see the progress we're making...from the standpoint of our program, it was a good night for us tonight."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine