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Formulas: AU vs. UGA / Niagara

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Every Auburn football recap I try to write has the same formula. It involves: temporary greatness, Malzahn’s sporadic genius, a tired and undermanned defense, Tate being outstanding, Chizik’s chin, team’s overall performance resting on Todd’s robot shoulder, fast starts, broken records, same song, different verse, etc.

So by game eleven we Auburn fans had a good idea what to expect.

The fast start was there, as well as the suspect run defense and the penalty-prone offensive line. What was missing – what Jerry has already pointed out – was the consistent running game and pass protection for Todd, especially during the third and fourth quarters. Not good.

So, yeah, that’s all I have to say about that. You watched and you were happy for a while and then you were sad and then you were happy again but then sad for good. And then if you were like me you went to The Independent and got your eardrums raped by dark wave/ techno punk something of another. (By the way, support The Independent; it’s a cool place.)

But all is not lost yet. One more game remains for glory. A win in two weeks totally changes the perception of this team and year. Let’s go do that.

Oh, and this.

One of those other sports Auburn sometimes plays

Jeff Lebo recruits clones — six foot four to six foot seven jack-of-all-trades swingmen. (See: Frank Tolbert, Quantez Robertson, Rasheem Barrett, Lucas Hargrove, basically every addition to the 2009-10 team.)

They are athletic and can play almost any position, but they don’t do any one thing well. As a whole, they are streaky shooters, mediocre ball handlers, passable rebounders and poor post players. Having three or four of these “clones” on the court at one time forces Auburn’s offense to be one of perimeter passing and solo drives into walls of defenders.

Auburn can survive this attack of the clones (terrible connotations) when a Tay Waller is roaming the 3-point line or a Korvotney Barber is in the post. But when these two are missing, as was the case Friday against Niagara (Barber having graduated and Waller sitting with a quad injury), things gets ugly.

A typical Auburn possession: DeWayne Reed brings the ball up the court. He passes to Frankie Sullivan who is camped out on the left wing beyond the 3-point line. Sullivan looks to throw into the post. Knox/ Lett is awkwardly attempting to back down the opponent’s post player, looking very much like a dog in heat. Twenty seconds on the shot clock. Sullivan passes it back to Reed who dribbles to the right. Reed passes to Hargrove/ Ross/ Armstrong/ Malone who is most likely standing alone 30 feet from the basket. Twelve on the shot clock. A member of the clone army fakes a drive and passes back to Reed. Seven. Reed fakes to the left, drives to the right, whistle, crazy shot, crash, free throws.

Which leads to the most surprising stat of the game — Auburn’s free throw percentage. Much has been made of the Lebo-era Tigers’ struggles at the free-throw line, and rightly so, but against Niagara Auburn shot an above average 83.3%, and that was on 30 attempts.

More or less every other stat — rebounds, shooting percentage, turnovers, steals — was dead even. The difference was the 16 more free throws Auburn made.

Yes, Auburn won a basketball game because of free throw shooting.

Take a minute and absorb that last sentence.

We can only hope this very un-Auburn like shooting can continue.

The late-game heroics of Reed and the 11-0 run during the last 1:30 should also be mentioned.

It’s much easier (and more fun) to criticize and mock, but Auburn does deserve credit. Niagara is not a bad team and coming back from a 65-58 deficit against any team is impressive, even if Hargrove goal-tended the layup which would have put Niagara up in the last 15 seconds of the game.

I’m not sure where this team goes from here. Lebo played a lot of players Friday. I would think, once the season gets rolling, fewer of the new players will play important minutes. Freshman Earnest Ross started in place of the injured Waller and looked good. The rest were a blur. Again, clones.

A special gold star for DeWayne Reed who scored a career-high 24 points, including an important and-1 to start Auburn’s late-game comeback. Hat tip to you, sir.

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