Too little, too late vs. CSU

Chris Denson and the Auburn Tigers lose to the Cougars in their final tune-up

Auburn let West Alabama hang around for the majority of its first exhibition game last Wednesday, before putting some distance on the Division II team in the second half.

The Tigers did much the same against Columbus State — picked to finish 12th out of 13 in the Division II Peach Belt Conference — in their final exhibition Monday, but with a different result.

Auburn let the visiting Cougars create as much as a 12-point cushion in the second half before storming back to tie.

But a Steve Peterson jumper with 15.1 seconds to go gave Columbus State a 54-52 win and sent the Tigers into their season opener Friday with a loss.

Albeit one that won’t count in the standings.

“The best thing about this game tonight: didn’t count,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “That’s the best thing about this game.”

The Cougars took a 20-19 lead on the Tigers with a Jarmarquis Stevenson jumper with 8:55 left in the first half and spent the next 17 minutes going on a 21-10 run to build a 41-29 lead.

Auburn, which trailed by 2 at the most against West Alabama, started chipping away methodically, with an Earnest Ross 3-pointer pulling the Tigers even at 50 with 1:28 to go.

“We’re not satisfied by what happened, but one thing we’re satisfied with is we played with poise at the end of the game,” said Kenny Gabriel, who posted all but 2 of his 8 points and all 11 rebounds in the second half. “We showed that we had heart. And just because we got down, that we’re not just going to let somebody come in here and beat us on our home court.”

Peterson, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, nailed a jumper with 1:08 to go, and Auburn answered with a Rob Chubb layup to knot the game back at 52.

After nearly forcing a 5-second call in the corner, Ross blanketed Peterson on the baseline in the Cougars’ next possession, but Peterson knocked down the fallaway 18-footer.

The Tigers set up for the last shot after a timeout past halfcourt with 12.1 seconds to go, and Josh Wallace got the ball in the hands of Ross, who led Auburn with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Ross’ floater went off the rim, and both Chubb and Gabriel had shots at a tip-in in the final seconds before the ball squirted away as the final horn sounded.

“That’s the stuff that we’ve just got to work on in practice,” Gabriel said. “When it comes off the rim, just going and dunking it in, instead of just playing tip drill with it.”

An all-around underwhelming offensive night from both sides kept the score low all night.
Columbus State shot 29.6 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers against six assists, while Auburn shot 32.8 percent and forked the ball over 14 times.

The main difference came at the free-throw line, where the Cougars sunk 18 of their 26 attempts, or 69.2 percent.

The Tigers checked in at 35 percent — 7-of-20.

“If we go 10-for-20 from the foul line tonight, shoot 50 percent — which is an awful number — we still win by 1,” Barbee said. “Can’t go 7-for-20.”

Andre Malone scored 10 for Auburn off the bench, and Columbus State’s Donta Ridley was the only other player to breach double digits, with 11.

On a night in which Tennessee lost to Indianapolis and Alabama-Huntsville took Alabama to double overtime, the Tigers also added to their laundry list of things to work on as the regular season nears.

“We can’t let a team play harder than us in our building,” Barbee said. “We’ve got a lot to work on, a long way to go.

“Their heads were down — and they should be, because they lost — but there’s a realization of where we are. And we’re going to build that foundation every day.”

dmorrison@oanow.com | 737-2568

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