AUBURN — Texas A&M proved for one night bigger does mean better.
The Aggies, which have won five of their last six Southeastern Conference games after starting 0-4 in league play, dominated in the post Wednesday night in an 81-80 win over No. 8 Auburn.
Texas A&M guard Duane Wilson sank a game-winning foul shot after Auburn forward Chuma Okeke was called for a blocking foul with three seconds left in the game.
The combination of projected first-round draft pick Robert Williams and back-to-the-basket specialist Tyler Davis, both who stand 6-foot-10, finished with a combined 31 points and 15 rebounds while converting 15 of 21 shots from the field.
Auburn’s 13-game home winning streak ended against a team that was skilled enough to be ranked in top five of the Associated Press poll in the preseason. The loss drew Tennessee one game closer to the Tigers in the league standings, but Auburn (21-3, 9-2 SEC) holds the tiebreaker after a 94-84 victory over the Volunteers on Jan. 2 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Auburn guard Jared Harper, who was coming off a career-high 14 assist performance against Vanderbilt last weekend, suffered early foul trouble and the Tigers leading scorer, Bryce Brown, left in the first half with an apparent arm/shoulder injury. Suddenly the Tigers were trying to keep pace with a preseason SEC favorite without two of its starting guards and left the playing floor after 20 minutes down 10 points.
Brown, a candidate for SEC player of the year honors, was ruled out for the second half and had just seven points in 15 minutes of action. The junior guard returned to the bench in his warm-up gear but with what appeared to be an ice pack on his right shoulder.
Auburn made a comeback deep in the second half as Mustapha Heron attempted to lead the Tigers back with a 33-14 run over an 11-minute period to give Auburn its first lead since the score was 18-17. Heron ended the game with 28 points but his shot from over 30 feet at the buzzer went off the front rim.
When Texas A&M (16-8, 5-6 SEC) wasn’t dumping the basketball into its twin towers, freshman guard T.J. Starks was abusing Auburn’s perimeter defense for a team-high 23 points. With 18:53 left in the game, A&M built Auburn’s largest deficit of the 2017-18 season with a 53-36 lead. The 54 percent shooting mark for the Aggies was the best against Auburn throughout this current 24-game campaign.
The loss slid Auburn down a seed line from a No. 1 to a No. 2 in the latest projected NCAA Tournament bracket by USA Today and was the first home loss for Auburn since Feb. 25, 2017, when Arkansas defeated the Tigers 79-68 less than two weeks before the SEC Tournament.
Auburn will hope to get a good medical report on its leading scorer before it travels to a struggling Georgia team on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. tip. Georgia (13-10, 4-7) suffered a crushing 81-66 loss Wednesday at last-place Vanderbilt.