By Charles Goldberg
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas pressed Auburn, that's for sure. But coach Tony Barbee said his team's problems didn't come from the press, it came from within.
The Tigers made too many mistakes in the first half, fell behind and lost to the Razorbacks 86-67 Saturday in Bud Walton Arena to fall to 0-6 in the SEC and 8-9 overall. The competitive nature of the Tigers, who were within striking range in their other SEC games, couldn't overcome their own errors. Arkansas took advantage to improve to 13-6 overall and 2-4 in the SEC.
A positive for Auburn? The Tigers play Alabama in Auburn Arena on Wednesday night when the ODK Trophy, which goes to the winner of the Iron Bowl, will be presented at halftime. Guard Chris Denson said the game itself could be the boost Auburn needs.
"No question about it. Alabama, that's all I got to say. It's a rival game. Everything is different," Denson said.
Barbee will be looking for fewer mistakes in that one, especially after committing 13 turnovers in the first half against the Razorbacks.
"But one against the press," he said. "It was us making bad decisions. It wasn't the press that was bothered us, it was just us executing."
Barbee will spend Sunday being inducted into the University of Massachusetts basketball Hall of Fame. He was a star player and assistant coach there. Saturday, he was looking for his inside game.
But the inside game that had provided some spark in Wednesday's loss to Mississippi State never materialized and the usually-reliable guard trio of Denson, KT Harrell and Tahj Shamsid-Deen simply couldn't score enough.
Auburn, with SEC losses of 2 and 3 points, and being within 5 points of everybody with no more than 4 ½ minutes to play, played in a hole almost the entire way this time.
"I thought we were a little inept on the offensive floor on some good looks that we typically make," Barbee said. "We made our run, but we just couldn't crack through, with the easy opportunities we had behind the arc and in the paint by the rim."
Auburn struggled most of the first half. It took the Tigers seven minutes, 31 seconds to score their first points from the field. It only got moderately better after that. The Tigers made only seven shots in the first half for a less-than-crisp 25.9 percent shooting.
"We started off like that in a bunch of games...We can't start like that. We're working hard on that in practice," Denson said. "It really hurts us."
Auburn was 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half and finished 4-of-19.
Arkansas led 36-25 at the break as Auburn matched its season-low for first-half points in conference games.
It didn't get much better in the second half, though Payne made three straight baskets for Auburn before the 15-minute mark. But that only cut the score to 44-33. The Tigers made it 44-35 the next trip down the floor.
Arkansas just kept going, outscoring Auburn 13-5 to close out the game.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine