FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Auburn set a breathtaking new standard for futility in a miserable start to the second half before nearly pulling off an equally incredible comeback.
Auburn’s 73-64 loss to Arkansas Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena was another chapter in what might be a historically bad season that has produced its share of games that are both bizarre and riveting.
The Tigers (7-13, 0-6 SEC) missed 22 consecutive field goals and failed to score a basket for almost the first 12 minutes of the second half.
Adrian Forbes goes up for a basket against Grambling earlier this year (Todd Van Emst, Auburn).
The post-halftime performance doomed any chance of an upset, even after the Tigers rallied to score 33 points in the final eight minutes of the game after scoring only 31 in the first 32.
“I’m not (surprised) with this team,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said of the streakiness. “We see it all the time.”
The struggling Razorbacks (13-6, 3-3), enduring apathetic and cranky fans in what was once a basketball hotbed, slogged through a ho-hum first half before finding a spark after halftime. Arkansas went on runs of 8-0 and 21-1, while Auburn could muster only a single free throw.
Barbee said the offensive drought, while frustrating, was at least predictable for his “offense-challenged” crew. What he didn’t like was seeing the offensive failures affect the Tigers’ defensive intensity.
“We hung our heads, and that’s why I kept calling those quick timeouts,” he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Don’t let our lack of offense affect our defense.’ And we did. That one possession we must have had 8, 9, 10 shots at the basket, and we couldn’t get it to go in. Then they come down and bury a 3 because we hung our heads and trotted back. Those guys made some big shots off of our lack of offense.”
“We’ve got to be a defensive-minded team and let our defense determine the offense,” said Adrian Forbes, who had a career-high 11. “We needed to do that more in the second half.”
Tony Neysmith finally broke the drought with a basket at the 8:36 mark, but by then the game was long since out of hand, right?
Well, maybe not. The Razorbacks’ lead peaked at 55-31 when Auburn went on a 13-0 run, even narrowing the gap to as close as six points with two minutes left in the game.
But while the spurt made the final score more respectable, it was too late for the Tigers to pull off a miracle.
And that may be what they need to win an SEC game this year, or at least a game on the road.
Auburn dropped to 3-17 and 2-16 at Bud Walton, which was probably at only about half of its 19,200 capacity.
The Tigers travel to South Carolina on Saturday.