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Auburn looks for SEC tourney magic after losing at State
March 5, 2016

Bruce Pearl will look for another SEC Tournament run
Bruce Pearl will look for another SEC Tournament run

By Charles Goldberg

Bruce Pearl hopes his Auburn basketball team will bounce back in next week's SEC Tournament by following the same script it used to win three tourney games there last season.

Auburn lost its regular-season finale last year before it got hot in Nashville. The Tigers closed out this regular season with a loss as well, this time a 79-66 setback at Mississippi State on Saturday.

Auburn will now try to recapture its tournament magic against Tennessee at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Bridgestone Arena. The Tigers and Vols split their season series, with Auburn winning 83-77 in Auburn Arena in its SEC opener Jan. 2 and losing 71-45 in Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville on Feb. 9.

Pearl said he's ready for a tournament return, but "this is a different team, different chemistry, but we are going up there to do our best."

Tennessee will be without Kevin Punter Jr., one of the top players in the league. He is scheduled to have surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. His 22.2 points-per-game average is the best at Tennessee since Allan Houston averaged 22.3 points in 1992-93.

Auburn will lean on recent history in the SEC Tournament after seeing a fast start against Mississippi State slip away Saturday. Auburn led 8-0 early, but trailed 39-20 at the half.

"We jumped out, then, offensively, we got real stagnant for no reason," Pearl said.

Auburn had a better second half, scoring 46 points and shooting 57 percent from the floor.

"That first-half offense cost us the game," Pearl said.

Point guard T.J. Dunans got into early foul trouble and eventually fouled out. That didn't help. But Pearl said "we had five guys contribute."

TJ Lang scored 16, Cinmeon Bowers had 10 points and 11 rebounds, Horace Spencer had a career-high 13 points plus five rebounds and three blocks. Tyler Harris added 13 points.

"Horace did a lot of good things again," Pearl said. "Tyler was super solid. T.J. Dunans, they had him with four assists, but I felt like he had more. Real active. TJ Lang had 16. Cinmeon had a double-double again."

Auburn fell to 11-19 overall and 5-13 in the SEC. Mississippi State improved to 14-16 overall and 7-11 in the league.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:


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