By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Horace Spencer's career game was the highlight for Auburn on Saturday night. Coach Bruce Pearl said so.
But he also said the Tigers otherwise had issues in their 74-63 loss to Oklahoma State in Auburn Arena, including holding out forward Cinmeon Bowers over a discipline issue and an offense that has come to rely too much on Kareem Canty.
Spencer was solid with six points and a career-high 11 rebounds and six blocks while playing 27 minutes, the most in his career. Spencer answered the call as Auburn played without Bowers, its third-leading scorer and rebound leader. Bowers was held out for "conduct detrimental to the team," said Pearl, who added he expects Bowers back for Tuesday's 6 p.m. home game against LSU.
Auburn fell to 9-11. Oklahoma State improved to 11-10. "It's OK if you didn't enjoy that basketball because that wasn't very good basketball," Pearl said of this installment of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The good news Saturday was Spencer mostly stayed out of foul trouble and was able to help.
"Horace Spencer played really hard, played really well," Pearl said. "He definitely was a factor out there.
"When he plays with that motor, he plays like Dennis Rodman. But he doesn't play with that motor all the time."
Spencer said he "played OK."
"I'm happy with the way I played, but I'm not satisfied. I know we can do better."
Pearl didn't say why he disciplined Bowers.
"I don't want our fans to be too upset with him. These are young guys and they do make mistakes," Pearl said. "Cim just gets very passionate. His conduct recently warranted him not playing the last 17 minutes against Ole Miss and not playing tonight. He feels badly. He's apologized. I'm hopeful he'll come back and finish the season strong."
The loss of Bowers left Auburn three players down from the start of the season. Auburn has been without starting guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunans for weeks. Saturday, Auburn played three freshmen at the same time at one point. There were two walk-ons and a freshman on the court when Oklahoma State led 57-48 with 7:50 left.
Kareem Canty led Auburn with 21 points.
"All you can do is see if he can make enough plays," Pearl said. "Those are the things that your point guard should do at end of games, or the end of halves, but not for 30 minutes.
"Other guys have to step up."
Tyler Harris had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his eighth double-double of the season.
Auburn started slowly, trailed by 14, but used a 12-0 run, and 3-point shooting, to cut Oklahoma State's lead to 31-28. The Cowboys finished the first half with a little run to take a 40-31 halftime advantage.
Spencer was solid inside in the first half with four points, six rebounds and three blocks. And, as importantly with Bowers on the bench, stayed out of foul trouble, committing just one in the first half.
The Tigers trailed 55-44 with 10 minutes left, then cut Oklahoma State's lead to 57-52 with 6:28 left. But that was as close as Auburn could get.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine