Auburn was able to avoid the upset against UAB thanks to a late-game surge from Jared Harper.
Harper took over down the stretch for the struggling Tiger offense, scoring 23 of the last 30 points, spanning regulation and overtime.
During Harper’s late-game heroics, the star point guard eclipsed his career-high with 31 points in the win.
"We've got Jared Harper and they don't,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “That happens a lot of the time against a lot of people. We have him and they don't. It’s a great compliment to Jared. He was able to take the game over.
“For us, we are still trying to find our way with our rotations and it’s a great problem to have. We don’t have much flow yet, but we’ve got 10 good players and we’re finding ways to have everyone be involved. We need to continue to grow and improve. It was obviously a great win for our team.”
The immaculate run for Harper started with 9:23 left in the second half, when he grabbed a rebound and flew by the backtracking UAB defense for the coast-to-coast score to tie the game up at 47-47.
UAB and Auburn would battle back and forth for the remainder of the half, exchanging the lead six times and remaining tied for over four minutes in the second half alone.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Auburn would hold a six-point lead with 1:15 left in the game but Zack Bryant knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the game within three and teammate Jeremiah Bell hit a pair of threes – one being with 10 seconds left to tie the game and force overtime.
The Tigers would take control in overtime, led by Harper, who scored 10 of Auburn’s 12 in the extra period.
“I prepare a lot for exact moments like that," Harper said. "To have the trust of my coaches and teammates means a lot."
Harper’s performance was needed after an inefficient first half from the offense that needed two late first-half threes to give the Tigers the lead heading into the break.
"I feel like, in the first half, we struggled and took some questionable shots, but you could say that we do that a lot of times and we hit some of those tough shots,” Harper said. “I don't know if I really gave too much thought about oh we're doing that. Just going into half, I just looked for opportunities to look to be aggressive, and the shot went down."
Auburn’s free-throw success was a big factor in the Tigers’ ability to come out with the win, especially because their lack of 3-point shooting success (18 percent from three).
The Tigers’ lack of execution when getting to the line and converting was something Pearl discussed last week, saying, "Our free throw shooting, the percentages aren't good and that'll cost us in a close game."
Auburn answered the call, knocking down 27 of their 34 attempts, with Harper hitting 15 of his 16.
Pearl said Auburn will use this hard-fought win to build some confidence and learn from mistakes before heading to Raleigh, North Carolina, to take on the NC State Wolfpack on Wednesday.
"I just think it was a great win for us,” Harper said. “We're not going to play our best every game. We're going to have times where people are missing shots. I might be missing shots and Bryce is on. But we just ride each other, just whoever is hot.
"We use it as a learning experience, and that just starts with our defense if we're not able to make shots, we have to pick it up defensively, and I think tonight, we got some key stops and some key rebounds that allowed us to win."
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman