No. 19 Auburn and Loyola-Chicago will look to rebound from their first losses of the season on Thursday when they meet in the consolation bracket of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
The Tigers (3-1) have every reason to be exhausted after rallying from a 15-point deficit for the second straight game before dropping a 115-109 double-overtime loss to No. 22 UConn on Wednesday.
“You go to tournaments to play games like this,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “This is like March. Our kids were excited about playing. We knew that UConn was a top-25 team, probably a little better than that.”
K.D. Johnson scored 23 of his career-high 27 points after halftime, highlighted by driving layups that forged a tie near the end of regulation and the first overtime.
“I was just trying to do anything to get a W,” said Johnson, who is averaging a team-high 24 points per game. “I wasn’t really focused on anything, how it was going. I was just trying to get a win.”
Jabari Smith added 19 of his 22 points following intermission for Auburn. He made all 12 of his foul shots to boot.
“We competed,” Pearl said. “We came here to win. We’re disappointed. I thought we played with great effort and energy, fairly decent level of toughness and I think what K.D. said is exactly right — he just wanted to win. … But I thought we answered the question of whether or not we’re tough enough. We got punched in the mouth and we punched back.”
The Tigers’ setback came a few hours after the Ramblers (4-1) dropped a 63-61 decision to Michigan State.
Lucas Williamson collected 16 points and eight rebounds for Loyola-Chicago, which was undone after Marcus Bingham Jr. dunked home an alley-oop with 3.4 seconds remaining in the second half.
“That was a big-time college basketball game,” Ramblers coach Drew Valentine said. “… There are no moral victories for us with where this program is at. We have to find a way to stay positive, stay together and continue to grind and improve on the things that we’re not doing well right now.”
Loyola-Chicago forced Michigan State into 20 turnovers, however it shot a season-low 37.3 percent from the floor on Wednesday.
Reigning Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week Ryan Schwieger was held to five points versus Michigan State. The Princeton transfer had recorded 22-point performances in each of his previous two games.
“We have to come with a mentality to win a game (Thursday). We can’t just sulk or not believe in ourselves because we had a rough game,” Valentine said. “We gotta put that game in the bank, whether it’s a positive game or a negative game. Put it in the bank, learn from it and then come out with that same swagger, same intensity that when we had it going today, we have to come out with it (Thursday).”
–Field Level Media