AU Tigers basketball in tailspinPublished 12:36pm Wednesday, January 30, 2013
By Andy Graham
I wrote a column last month about the Auburn women’s basketball program and the rich tradition it established during the 1980s. I also praised the 2013 team because of its fast start and good out of conference record.
I wrote a column two weeks ago about the Auburn men’s basketball program (which has no tradition) and praised them for beginning conference play 2-0 after a disappointing early schedule. Both programs were actually showing some promise and a definite hint of optimism slowly began to permeate the fan base.
Unfortunately, Mr. Optimism has taken a savage beating at the hands of cold, hard reality. It’s too early to tell if he’ll survive, but the prognosis doesn’t look good.
After beating LSU and South Carolina, the Tiger men have now lost four straight bringing their overall record to 8-11. A conference record of 2-4 puts Auburn in a tie with Georgia for 11th place in the SEC and going nowhere fast.
This past Saturday, the Tigers took on the Rebels from Ole Miss, who came in leading the SEC with a record of 16-2 and 5-0. Auburn fans did their part by showing up and creating an incredible atmosphere at the Auburn Arena.
The Tigers scratched and clawed their way to a 61-61 tie with six seconds to play. What happened next only happens at a place like Auburn. True freshman Shaq Johnson fouled Rebel guard Marshall Henderson before the ball was even thrown into play.
Henderson promptly hit two free throws and Auburn’s final prayer was unanswered. It was maddening to watch such a hard-fought game end in such an ignominious fashion.
I don’t care if Johnson is a freshman or not. Tony Barbee has to do a better job of coaching in that situation. He is ultimately responsible for how his players respond at crunch time.
This was no moral victory, either. It was just another disappointing loss that fans have sadly come to expect.
Not to be outdone, the Auburn women have also lost four in a row and five of their last six bringing their overall record to 13-7. The lady Tigers have a conference record of 2-5, which places them ninth in the SEC and also going nowhere in a hurry. After beginning the season 13-3, the wheels have come off the axle for coach Terri Williams-Flournoy.
The women have been facing a much higher level of competition in recent weeks like no. 5 Kentucky and no. 9 Tennessee, but there’s no excuse to lose by 44 points to the Wildcats.
Auburn also lost by 22 points at Texas A&M to begin the losing streak. This is Williams-Flournoy’s first year so she gets a pass until she recruits a team full of her own players — however, she need not make it a habit of losing in Tuscaloosa like the Tigers did last week.
It was only the ladies third loss against the Tide in the last seven seasons. The bottom line is Auburn basketball (regardless of gender) remains in the doldrums where it seems to be most comfortable.
The new $90 million A]arena was supposed to be a catalyst for the rejuvenation of Tiger excellence on the hardwood — however, to this point it’s just been a nicer and more expensive place to go watch Auburn lose.
Unless something drastic happens, neither team will be tournament bound as usual.
Graham is a columnist for The Outlook