By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Antoine Mason didn't play again because of an injured ankle, but Auburn found a lot of players who picked up the slack.
KT Harrell led Auburn in scoring for the third straight game, Cinmeon Bowers had his third double-double of the year and five Tigers scored in double figures to help in a 105-80 win over the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Auburn Arena on Friday night.
Auburn played race-horse basketball, scoring 45 in the first half and 60 in the second, closing with an amazing run when it hit 18 of its final 20 shots, including the last 11. It was the first time Auburn has scored 100 points in a game since 2003.
"It's the way we like to play. The kids had fun playing it. The fans enjoyed watching it," said coach Bruce Pearl.
Harrell led Auburn with 24, Bowers had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Tahj Shamsid-Deen added 21, two games removed from injuring his shoulder in the opener. Jordon Granger added 14 and Malcolm Canada had 10.
"My teams play best when everybody contributes," Pearl said.
It was Auburn's second win, and second over a team that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last year. The Tigers are 2-1 overall. Louisiana dropped to 1-2.
Bowers again muscled his way into the story, with that double-double and playing "tremendous" defense on Shawn Long, Pearl said.
"Shawn Long is the nation's leading returning double-double guy. Shawn had six points and two rebounds, and Cinmeon had 20 and 12. That's very, very significant," Pearl said.
Pearl said Harrell's scoring — he had 15 at half — "gave the other guys confidence."
Shamsid-Deen had a career high in scoring, thanks to his defense.
"Tahj Shamsid-Deen broke out tonight," Pearl said. "He broke out because we said you're one of the best defenders... and this basketball is not playing up to your level. You need to take us to a different level defensively.
"He focused on his defense, and I think that loosened him up."
So much so he was 5-of-10 on 3-point shots.
"The fact he took 10 is a good sign because he took 10 good open shots. He didn't hesitate," Pearl said.
Pearl said there were still some shortcomings on defense. Louisiana shot 51 percent. But Auburn shot 54.5 percent.
"Our field goal percentage defense is going to be a real challenge," Pearl said, "that's why we have turn people over."
Louisiana had 20 turnovers. Auburn a modest 10.
It was 10-10 early, but Auburn quickly established a lead from there and wouldn't let go. The Tigers led 45-38 at the half, thanks to a fall-down 3-pointer at the buzzer by Bowers. And it was Auburn that didn't miss Mason's scoring, not with a 45-point first half. Or the 60-point second half.
Harrell and Bowers were leading the way at half. Harrell had 15 points and Bowers had 13 points and six rebounds at the half. That's when Louisiana was shooting itself out of contention, hitting just two of its first 11 3-point attempts.
Mason, the nation's leading returning scorer, hasn't played the last two games after suffering an ankle injury in the opener.
"I hope he comes back next week. I don't know," Pearl said.
Auburn will now wing it to Las Vegas for the MGM Grand Main Event. The Tigers will play two games there, beginning with Tulsa on Monday.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine