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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn bested by Texas A&M, 28-game home win streak snapped

Auburn basketball's Chris Moore (5) faces a Texas A&M defender in a matchup between the two teams in Neville Arena on Jan. 25, 2023.
Auburn basketball's Chris Moore (5) faces a Texas A&M defender in a matchup between the two teams in Neville Arena on Jan. 25, 2023.

Over Bruce Pearl’s nine seasons at Auburn, Neville Arena has developed a reputation for being one of college basketball’s toughest environments. Over the past six seasons, Auburn has won nearly 89% of its home games. During Auburn’s stretch of home success, only one team has consistently been able to escape Neville Arena victorious — Texas A&M.

The Aggies dealt the Tigers another devastating home defeat on Wednesday night, beating No. 15 Auburn 79-63 and ending the Tigers’ 28-game home win streak, a streak that was the nation’s best. With the win, Texas A&M improved its all-time record at Neville Arena to 6-1, with Auburn’s only win coming in 2022.

It was Auburn's first home loss since Feb. 23, 2021 against Florida — a span of 701 days between home defeats.

“Obviously, we're not used to it,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “Lost to a good team that played really well. They were better tonight and it was pretty clear.”

The loss not only snapped Auburn’s NCAA-best home win streak, but also a streak of five straight victories by the Tigers.

Shooting struggles continued to plague the Tigers (16-4, 6-2 SEC) throughout the contest, especially from behind the 3-point arc. Auburn shot at the clip of 42.9% from the field and made just three of the 16 3-pointers it attempted, making 3-point shots at an 18.8% rate.

“Got to make open shots, got to make shots,” Pearl said. “You look at our shooting percentages -- they weren't great.” 

Of Auburn’s three 3-pointers, Zep Jasper made two and Wendell Green Jr. made the other. Jasper's six points were his most in a game since scoring the same amount against USC on Dec. 18.

“Zep made a couple, but it's an issue, finding some other guys that want to shoot it, can shoot it, will shoot it,” Pearl said. “It'll make our offense better for sure.”

Texas A&M (14-6, 6-1 SEC), like Auburn, came into the game struggling from 3-point range. But unlike Auburn, those woes were nowhere to been seen, especially in the first half. Averaging 31.5% from behind the arc before the game, the Aggies made six 3-pointers in the first half alone, finishing with seven makes from long range.

“We couldn't keep them in front, and they came in and made shots,” Pearl said. “You know, that's a team that averages five 3s a game and those guards we're shooting — all those guards we're shooting about 26% in league play and (Tyrece) Radford was 3-for-7, (Wade) Taylor was 3-for-5, and some of those shots in the first half were big.”

After missing the past three games with a shoulder injury, Chris Moore returned to the court for the Tigers, albeit in limited action. Moore played seven minutes in his first appearance since Jan. 10, getting one rebound in his time on the court.

“For the first half I had a little jitters because I took a week off,” Moore said. “A week and half off and it’s kind of been hard for me mentally.”

Coming off of his 27-point performance in the last game, Johni Broome once again led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points along with Green Jr., who also scored 16. No other Tiger reached double figures for the game as Auburn’s offensive woes continued.

Broome’s success was not limited to offense, as he had seven rebounds and blocked seven shots.

Defensively, Auburn struggled to guard Radford, who scored 30 points, making eight of his 17 shots from the field and 11 of his 12 free-throw attempts. 

Radford's performance was the latest in a season-long trend of scoring guards causing trouble for the Tiger defense – a common denominator in Auburn's four losses. 

In addition to Radford's 30-point game, Memphis's Kendric Davis scored 27, USC's Boogie Ellis had a 28-point game and Georgia's Terry Roberts put up 26 against Auburn's defense — each in games the Tigers lost.

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“(Radford)'s a great player. Great athlete,” Pearl said. “One of the best athletes in the country, really. Big, strong, physical and (had) a big game. Played great. I just didn't have anybody who could stay in front of him.”

Auburn struggled with turnovers, losing the ball 13 times, resulting in 16 points for its opponent. Auburn, meanwhile, struggled to force turnovers defensively. Texas A&M only committed nine turnovers, with Auburn scoring just six points off Aggie miscues.

The Tigers and Aggies will meet again in under two weeks, when Auburn travels to College Station, Tex. on Feb. 7. 

This Saturday, Auburn will take a break from conference play when it travels to West Virginia for the final Big 12/SEC Challenge. Tip-off from WVU Coliseum will be at 11 a.m. CST and will be televised on ESPN.

Matthew Wallace | Sports Reporter

Matthew is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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