Auburn has struggled on the road of late, with blowout losses at Florida and Alabama. The script seemed to flip against Arkansas, with the Tigers getting off to a fast and taking a lead into halftime.
Coming out of halftime the Tigers went cold but were able to hold on down the stretch, jumping out to a five-point lead in the overtime period and eventually knocking off the Razorbacks, 79-76 on Tuesday night.
"We didn't quit," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "I think it speaks to the effort, the energy and the character of our team to not give in, to not succumb to being down when you're on the road."
Free-throw shooting was an issue early in the season, but Auburn connected on 8-of-9 foul shots in overtime to secure the victory.
Arkansas led by as many as 11 in the second half, but the Tigers, aided by point guard J' Von McCormick's offensive surge, responded to retake the lead in the final minutes of the game. Arkansas' Mason Jones tied the game at 69 and Auburn forced a miss on the final possession to send the game to overtime.
Just as Jones dropped his 40th point in overtime to bring Arkansas within one point, Samir Doughty went to the line and iced the game connecting on both free throws.
The first half was a story of runs as Arkansas went on a 10-0 run and a 7-0 run, but went cold to end the half. The Tigers responded with an 11-0 run of their own, giving them a two-point lead at the break.
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McCormick had just four points in the first half, but following a torn jersey and a swap to the backup No. 55 in the second half, the senior added 12 more down the stretch.
"He became a different player," Pearl said. "No. 55 was better than No. 5. Twice as good."
While McCormick led the charge in the second half, it was Doughty who started the game hot for Auburn, scoring the first eight points for the Tigers. At the half, Doughty had 13 and he finished the game with 23.
“Samir Doughty is a strong personality on our team,” Pearl said. “He’s a leader. Not afraid of the moment.”
Coming into the matchup the Razorbacks led the Southeastern Conference in forced turnovers, and that trend continued as they turned Auburn over 18 times.
Auburn came into the matchup looking to utilize a huge size advantage in the frontcourt with Austin Wiley, but the senior was largely ineffective. It was one of the worst games of his season since South Alabama, where he recorded just two points, one rebound and also fouled out. Wiley failed to score, had two rebounds, three fouls, four turnovers and played just 11 minutes Tuesday night.
Even with Wiley’s struggles, Auburn was able to lean on fellow senior Anfernee McLemore to carry the load down low.
"Anfernee McLemore was plus-18 coming off the bench," Pearl said. "Unbelievable defense. I don't know how many guys come off the bench in this league who have had a greater impact than him."
Freshman Isaac Okoro continued to impress, finishing the game with 14 points and seven rebounds while playing a majority of the second half in foul trouble.
“Isaac Okoro has tremendous impact on the game,” Pearl said. “He was plus-20 when he was on the floor.”
With tonight's victory, Pearl is now the first coach in Auburn history to earn multiple road victories over Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena.
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