GAME NOTES: The 14th-seeded Auburn Tigers and the 11th-seeded Texas A&M Aggies face off on Wednesday night in first-round action of the 2013 SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The winner will advance to the second round on Thursday to tangle with sixth- seeded Missouri.
Auburn's season appeared to get off on the right foot, as it sat with a respectable 8-7 record in mid-January, but it took a nose-dive in the conference standings over the last two months with losses in 15 of its final 16 games. The Tigers wrapped up the regular season with a 74-71 overtime loss at Mississippi State to finish up alone in last place in the SEC at 3-15.
In its first season as a member of the SEC coming over from the Big 12, Texas A&M did a solid job treading water for most of the campaign, but it faltered down the stretch by losing four of its last five games, including a 73-62 defeat in its March 9 finale at Arkansas. The Aggies performed much better overall (17-14) than they did in the conference (7-11).
Texas A&M defeated the Tigers in the only meeting between the teams this season, 65-56, in Auburn on Feb. 20, to extend its lead in the all-time series to 4-2.
The Tigers held a three-point lead in the final minute of regulation against Mississippi State the last time out before allowing a game-tying 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, and they were outpointed in the extra session en route to the tough loss. It was a modest shooting night for Auburn (.412), but it struggled mightily from 3-point range (3-of-17). Chris Denson was huge off the bench, shooting 9-of-18 from the field for 24 points while adding nine rebounds. Rob Chubb netted 18 points, and Frankie Sullivan chipped in 12 points (albeit on just 4-of-14 from the floor). Not surprisingly, it hasn't been a pretty season at either end of the court for Auburn, which ranks in the lower-half of the league in both scoring offense (64.9 ppg) and scoring defense (68.7 ppg). Sullivan is the top producer with 14.4 ppg, but that is mostly due to his high volume of shots, as he boasts a lackluster .367 field goal percentage. Denson has been impressive in a reserve role with 11.7 ppg, and Chubb brings a steady presence to the paint with 9.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 1.1 bpg.
The Aggies went into one of the most difficult buildings in the nation to play and shot an impressive 51.2 percent from the field, but they still came away with an 11-point loss by getting into foul trouble (Arkansas shot 28-of-36 from the free-throw line) and by committing an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers. Fabyon Harris netted 16 points in the defeat, Jordan Green added 14 points off the bench, and Kourtney Roberson scored 13 points on a perfect 6-of-6 showing from the field. Although Texas A&M outshoots its opponents from the field this season, .447 to .414, it is only barely able to score enough points (63.9 ppg) to support its strong defense (62.1 ppg). Elston Turner is in the midst of a great season with 17.7 ppg, but he missed the finale with a hand injury. In the event of his absence, Harris (11.9 ppg) will act as the go-to scoring option. Ray Turner (9.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Roberson (6.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) are a solid duo in the paint.
Texas A&M has been on the downswing of late, but even if Elston Turner is unable to suit up, it still has enough talent to topple a hapless Auburn squad, which appears to have been checked out for weeks now.
Game Date and Time