Feb. 22, 2014
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn was sitting pretty with a 16-point first-half lead, with the home-court advantage, with the momentum of that fine showing at No. 2 Florida just three days before.
But things took a disappointing turn for the Tigers in the second half Saturday in Auburn Arena when Vanderbilt starting launching 3-pointers and went on to beat the Tigers 67-59.
The Commodores hit 10 3-pointers in the second half — after just making one in the first half — to overcome all that went before.
"We got up by 16 and then we just assumed the game was over, but that all starts with practice," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. "We come out with great energy and then we decide at the end that that is good enough so we decide to dip and what you do in shoot a rounds and in practice you do in the game."
Auburn fell to 12-13 overall and 4-10 in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt improved to 15-11 overall and 7-7 in the league. Auburn was trying to bounce back from a 71-66 loss to Florida on Wednesday in a game in which the No. 2 Gators didn't take the lead for good until only 20 seconds were remaining. The Tigers' follow-through lasted about 10, maybe 15 minutes.
Vandy, which hit just 1-of-8 3-point tries in the first half, opened the second half by hitting four 3-pointers in short order and adding a fifth for a 40-38 lead barely 4½ minutes into the second half. That erased Auburn's 32-25 halftime lead.
"We just can't have that kind of drop-off from a game where we played with that much intensity and fight," said forward Allen Payne. "To have a second half we did against Vanderbilt, we were giving up wide open shots, it was unacceptable."
Barbee said the trouble began before Vandy got hot in the second half.
"It was a tough last 30 minutes, not just the second half," he said. "No matter how bad we shoot the ball offensively, you can always have energy; guard, defend, and play tough, and communicate and the last 30 minutes of the game we didn't do that. It's disappointing. I tried to warn the guys of the letdown. It always happens in a game like what we just had. But it is what it is."
Auburn's dynamic scoring duo of Chris Denson and KT Harrell — which came in to the weekend as the second-most prolific scoring tandem in the country — were held to 13 points each on 7-of-30 shooting.
"I can't remember the last time they were both off at the same time," Barbee said. "Obviously, we need those guys to set the pace for us offensively, but more than that we need their defensive effort and energy. Neither of those guys brought it. Not only do they set the tone offensively, but they set the tone defensively."
Payne and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum each scored 11 and each had nine rebounds. Dai-Jon Parker hit 5-of-9 3-pointers and led Vandy with 21 points.
Auburn will play host to South Carolina at 8 p.m. next Wednesday in Auburn Arena.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine