Auburn may have salted away the title of “Comeback Kids” for 2019-20 even with a month in the regular season and March Madness still to come.
The 11th-ranked Tigers (21-2, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) will take a five-game conference winning streak — and six-game streak overall — into Wednesday night’s rematch with Alabama. The Tigers have recorded four league wins in that stretch that have given them a share of the conference lead with LSU and Kentucky.
In three of those games they have had to overcome double-digit second-half deficits before winning in past regulation, including last weekend when they trailed LSU by 11 points with just over seven minutes left before pulling out the 91-90 overtime victory.
Senior guard J’Von McCormick became the third different player in that stretch to provide the decisive points when his floater in the lane with 0.1 seconds on the clock in overtime gave Auburn the nod.
Freshman Isaac Okoro’s 3-point play with 1:41 in the second overtime gave the Tigers the decisive margin in their 83-82 win at Ole Miss on Jan. 28.
Guard Samir Doughty’s free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining in OT ended the scoring in a 79-76 win at Arkansas last Tuesday.
“This Auburn basketball team is something,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said.
Pearl called the rally against LSU “one of the better comebacks of my career because of what was at stake and just how much we were down to such a good team in a championship-type game.”
Though McCormick had the decisive basket to finish with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, other players also came up big. Center Austin Wiley had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, Doughty had 26 points and freshman guard Devan Cambridge continued his feast-or-famine season with 21 points. Cambridge had been scoreless his previous four games after scoring 26 points against South Carolina.
“You can see when he’s going, he’s got no fear,” Pearl said of the freshman from Nashville, “But he needs to be able to find a way — and he will, he’s still young — to play more consistently, effort and energy on the defensive end, and do other things. But he gives us another dimension, another weapon.”
The Tigers should get forward Danjel Purifoy (9.6 points, 5.1 rebounds a game) back from the flu that sidelined him against LSU, but Alabama will be without a key weapon in this second meeting with the Tigers.
Guard Herb Jones is out indefinitely after having wrist surgery on Feb. 1. He had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds when the Crimson Tide (13-10, 5-5 SEC) rolled over the Tigers 83-64 in Tuscaloosa last month.
“Herb made some huge plays on defense and on the glass right out of the gate,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “I turned to the assistants like, ‘Herb came ready to play.’ I just think we kept guarding and guarding.”
The Tide lost to Arkansas and Tennessee in their first two games without Jones, but they rallied last weekend for a 105-102 overtime win at Georgia.
Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. scored a career-high 37 points against the Bulldogs, almost double the 19 he had in the loss to the Volunteers in his previous game.
–Field Level Media