Instant Analysis: Tigers’ comeback effort falls short in second-straight loss

The first game of the 2023 SEC-Big 12 Challenge did not start off as an entertaining contest, but would ultimately turn into an edge-of-your-seat affair.

The No. 16 Auburn Tigers shot 56% from the field in the second half, and outscored West Virginia 48-35 in the final 20 minutes, but the Mountaineers’ 16-point halftime deficit, as well as a rough game at the free throw stripe were not enough to steal the win, as they fell to West Virginia, 80-77 in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.

After trailing by a large margin in the first half, Auburn would cut West Virginia’s lead to one point three different times over the final five minutes of the game, but never took the lead. In the late stages of the game, Auburn’s poor shooting output at the free-throw line throughout the game caught up with them. Auburn ended the game by succeeding on just 6-of-19 shots from the stripe, while West Virginia converted 21-of-25.

West Virginia dominated the first half as they took a 45-29 lead into halftime. As a team, Auburn shot 40.7% in the first half while the Mountaineers connected on 56% of its shots. West Virginia also out-rebounded Auburn, 17-12, and went 3-of-7 from three-point range. West Virginia’s Erik Stevenson scored 18 of his 31 points in the first half, none of his teammates would score more than eight points during the stretch.

Auburn’s key contributors were rather quiet in the first half. Johni Broome, the team’s leading scorer, failed to score a point in the first half, going 0-3 from the field. Wendell Green Jr. shot 1-5 from the field and scored just three points in the first 20 minutes. Allen Flanigan was the team’s leading scorer in the first half with 10 points, followed by Jaylin Williams with six points.

The Tigers were able to cut into West Virginia’s lead in the second half. With 14:50 remaining in regulation, Green connected on a free throw that put Auburn within nine points of the Mountaineers, 55-46. Over the next seven minutes, Auburn worked their way up to a three-point deficit, then Broome cut the Mountaineers’ lead to one point with 5:16 remaining in the half.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Broome ended the day with 15 points, which was second behind Williams’ 18-point game. Flanigan and K.D. Johnson also reached double-figures in the loss, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively.

Auburn gets a rematch with Georgia for its’  next game. The Tigers and Bulldogs will square off on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 6 P.M. CT inside Neville Arena. Last time out, the Bulldogs defeated Auburn, 76-64 in Athens on Jan. 4.


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Story originally appeared on Auburn Wire