Auburn vs Xavier Review
It was a battle of two basketball schools to start the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, as the #8 Auburn Tigers faced off against the Xavier Musketeers. The game was a slug-fest that ended up being an incredibly entertaining 45 minutes of college basketball. Yes, 45, as the game was tied 77-77 at the end of regulation sending the game into overtime, where Auburn was able to pull away to get the 88-79 victory. The Tigers will play the winner of Duke/San Diego State, so the Tiger will play Duke in the next round, but let’s first look at how the score happened.
The game started at 9:30 AM, and it showed as the two teams were shooting very poorly during the first ten minutes of the game. You could credit this to two good defensive teams, but for Auburn it simply game down to missing shots they would normally hit. It was a physical game from the tip, with rebounding and loose balls being very important all game, however the first half just was not the most entertaining basketball, particularly for Auburn fans.
The second half, on the other hand, was when the game got exciting. Auburn started hot, and pulled away to a 12 point lead, however and overabundance of fouls really quickly gave Xavie the chance to come back. Whether you want to call it the referees calling bad fouls or Auburn playing undisciplined defense, there was a large discrepancy in frequency of foul calls between the two teams. Xavier was in the double bonus with more than ten minutes to go in the game. However this didn’t stop Auburn from finding a rhythm on offense and being able to keep the Musketeers from even tying the game. Chuma Okeke and Austin Wiley played big roles in Auburn’s second half offense both playing with four fouls, that is until Wiley fouled out. With Wiley and Anfernee McLemore both fouled out, Xavier was able to tie the game in the last minute, and Auburn could not get a good look for the win, so we went to OT.
Overtime is when Auburn looked the best all game and it was because of the outstanding clutch play of Horace Spencer and Jared Harper, on different ends of the court. Harper came through huge for Auburn on the offensive side of the ball, including maybe the greatest play in basketball history? He turned around a screen and RUINED THREE MUSKETEERS DAY BY ABSOLUTELY YAMMING ON THEIR HEADS (yamming = dunking). Spencer on the other hand was absolutely huge on the defensive side, getting steals, blocks, and rebounds oh my.
In a game where I don’t think either team played their best game, Auburn’s subpar performance proved to be better than Xavier’s, as it probably should, because Auburn is one of the best teams in the country. Bryce Brown finished with a somewhat quiet 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. While Harper finished with a very important 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. Okeke went for 13 and Wiley for 11, and Spencer only had 2 blocks, a steal, and 4 rebounds, but his game meant much more than that. Next up for the Tigers is the Duke Blue Devils, and while they are the number one team in the country, it is a winnable game for Auburn. They have to play much better than they did against Xavier, and hope Duke has a less than stellar game, but it is doable. Plus, this team loves being the underdog.