By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- KT Harrell says Auburn has no choice but to bounce back from two frustrating losses to start the SEC season.
No. 21 Missouri beat the Tigers 70-68 Saturday in Auburn Arena just two days after Ole Miss claimed a three-point win.
"We believe we can win every game that we play," Harrell said. "It's tough, but we've got a group of guys that are mentally strong. We're going to definitely bounce back."
Auburn had a shot to win with three seconds left when Missouri turned the ball over. But the Tigers never got a shot off.
Like the Ole Miss game, Auburn led as the clock wound down.
"I've got a good team. We're playing hard," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee.
Missouri improved to 13-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC. Auburn fell to 8-5 overall and 0-2 in the league. The Tigers will try to bounce back at Tennessee on Wednesday.
Saturday was a low-scoring game, at least in the first half when Missouri led 33-30 at the break. But it was physical throughout. Missouri shot 41 free throws, hitting 31. Auburn shot 26 free throws, hitting 14. But Auburn coach Tony Barbee said the game turned on this stat: Missouri finished with a 41-26 rebounding edge.
"We got crushed on the backboard," Barbee said "That was where the game was won and lost. Defensively, I thought we played a great game. Offensively, we executed pretty well... but when it matters the most, your execution has to be the highest."
He said, instead, the execution at the end was the lowest.
The Tigers were forced to play shorthanded. Forward Allen Payne was in for only the first two minutes, and then dispatched to the bench to nurse a hamstring injury he suffered in Thursday's loss to Ole Miss. Minutes before the game, Auburn announced reserve forward Chris Griffin had been suspended indefinitely for a violation of school policy.
Barbee wasn't shy to play just about everybody else. Ten Tigers played in the first 10 minutes. Eleven played in all.
"We had to play smaller, we had to play big. We work on playing a lot of different ways," he said.
Harrell led the way with 27 points. Tahj Shamsid-Deen scored 13 and Chris Denson added 11. Even Alex Thompson, a walk-on, played 22 minutes, hit 2-of-3 3-point tries and finished with eight points and two rebounds.
Missouri's hot-shooting guards were on target again. Jordan Clarkson led Missouri with 20 points, former Auburn player Earnest Ross scored 16 and Jabari Brown had 15.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine