Feel the (Au)burn

Five weeks later --- five weeks to the day --- we got the rematch.

Missouri vs. Auburn.

This one didn't have quite the same swag, however. Comparing the SEC Championship football game to this game of basketball would be like comparing a prime rib dinner to a can of outdated tuna.

It is what it is.

Three days after losing at home to a bad Georgia team, the Missouri Tigers went on the road Saturday and beat a bad Auburn team 70-68 in a matchup between two struggling and scuffling teams.

"We'll take it," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "People will talk about how it looked, but I don't care how it looked. Winning is hard; those guys over there wanted to win, too."

Auburn has now lost 18 of its last 19 SEC games. Feel the (Au)burn. And if you weren't sure --- besides Florida, Kentucky and perhaps Missouri --- the SEC is worse at basketball than it is good at football.

The line of the day was supplied by the generic TV play-by-play guy: "The Auburn basketball teams huddles more often than the Auburn football team."

Very true.

The final score told the story --- this was anything but easy, as there were no less than 14 lead changes and eight ties.

No. 21 Missouri (13-2, 1-1 SEC --- although you can forget about a number before Missouri's name when the next polls come out) went more than 11 minutes without a field goal in the first half. Yet, Missouri led 33-30 at the break when Jabari Brown, who finished with 15 points, hit a late 3-pointer.

"That was a big play for us; we needed that," Haith said. "Every point counted in this game."

Well, actually, every point counts in most games.

How did the Tigers stay in the game without a field goal for more than 11 minutes? Let alone having a lead? Because this was a glorified free throw contest between a bunch of muscular guys with a lot of tattoos.

The game showcased a whopping 67 free throw attempts (MU was 31-of-41, Auburn 14-of-26) on the heels of a silly 51 fouls called. These guys really enjoyed blowing their whistles.

As a result, it had the flow of a frozen creek.

"There were a lot of whistles, a lot of free throws, so it was hard to get into a rhythm," Haith said. "But this team executed when we needed to execute."

The Tigers certainly executed better on the boards than they did against Georgia, when they were outrebounded 43-34. On this day, Missouri's edge was 44-28, led by a game-high 11 rebounds by Torren Jones --- who did it in just 13 minutes.

"That was the difference, because we didn't shoot the ball well (17-of-52)," Haith said.

The last lead for Auburn (8-5, 0-2) was 67-66 after a score by Chris Denson with 1:51 left. And while Jordan Clarkson led Missouri with 20 points, it was Earnest Ross who sealed the deal down the stretch.

In Wednesday's loss to Georgia, the Bulldogs certainly had a significant emotional edge --- they won one for their coach, Mark Fox, whose father passed away five days prior.

On a much smaller scale, Missouri --- namely Ross --- had the emotional edge in this one, as Ross is a transfer from Auburn.

On his Homecoming, he hit four free throws in the final 94 seconds, and finished with 16 points, seven rebounds.

"Those free throws were obviously huge," Haith said. "He just played a very good basketball game, I'm happy for him."

Missouri escaped a pair of close calls in the closing seconds, as it snapped a four-game losing in conference road openers, including a 15-point loss at Ole Miss last year in its inaugural SEC road game.

"It's a win," Haith said. "I loved how gritty our guys were to finish out the ball game."

There wasn't a whole lot to love about this game.

But at least Missouri won the rematch.