Auburn's Kareem Canty hits the game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation
By Charles Goldberg
NASHVILLE — No more ball screens. No more plays to free him up.
Kareem Canty just wanted to shoot.
"Give it to me," he said, "and I'll make a play."
Oh, Canty did, hitting his eighth 3-pointer, this one in dramatic fashion with 1.7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but it wasn't enough for Auburn on this Saturday in Bridgestone Arena. Middle Tennessee won 88-81 in front of a solid crowd of 7,322 Auburn and Blue Raider fans.
Canty hit four 3-pointers down the stretch to help Auburn to a 73-73 tie at the end of regulation. He finished with 28 points. As the final minutes ticked down in regulation, Canty said he told coach Bruce Pearl: "I think it's getting ugly. Time for me to take it over."
"Kareem Canty was very special," Pearl said. "You're going to look at the way he scored when we needed to have him score. But he was consistently giving great effort throughout the game. I thought he kept his composure. He got rewarded by playing so well."
Canty hit the big shots down the stretch, but Auburn also got help in the form of double-doubles from Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris. Bowers finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds. Harris had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Pearl said those three needed help.
"My teams play best when everybody contributes, and tonight there was a big disparity between the guys who played well" and those who didn't, Pearl said. "It's just hard to beat a good team on the road when you don't get more productivity from more players. It was obviously bit of a lesson learned."
Auburn fell to 4-2 with a home game against Mercer waiting at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Middle Tennessee improved to 6-2.
Auburn led by nine points at the half. The second half was played on a see-saw with leads easily traded until Middle jumped ahead by four with four minutes remaining. The Blue Raiders led by five with 1:35 remaining. Canty shot Auburn back in the game.
Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said "it was one of the better college games I've been a part of in a long, long time. High-scoring, two hard-playing teams, a lot of runs in the game.
"I thought it was great the Auburn people came like they did. I thought it was a conference tournament atmosphere."
Davis said "there's no question" it was a big win for his team.
"We were playing against a good SEC team," he said. "I think it's a team that has a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. It has added value. It means a lot to our team."
Canty said Auburn will move on.
"We can't dwell on it. We play Tuesday."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine