AUBURN — It might be hard to remember that late in a November evening, players and coaches sat in the home locker room of Auburn Arena with the honest thought of ‘here we go again’ or wondering if this season would fall apart before it started.
The team that created that speculation, doubt and hesitation — Barry University, a Division II school located in suburb of Miami.
So much has happened since then, and the game didn’t even count. Folks may have already forgotten it. Long before Auburn ran off a 14-game winning streak, was ranked for the first time since 2003, and got off to its best start to a season since 1999-2000 season, the Tigers suffered what forward Desean Murray called a “personally” embarrassing loss.
“I feel like that was a game that really got our attention and was like, ‘We don’t want to go down like that; we don’t want to have the kind of year. We don’t want to lose like that,’” Murray said. “That feeling of losing, it wasn’t a good feeling. I remember that personally.”
When the buzzer sounded for the Nov. 2 game, the first contest of the 2017-18 season, Barry was celebrating a shocking 100-95 overtime win over Auburn. That was Division II Barry's first win over a Division I opponent in the exhibition season under fifth-year head coach Butch Estes.
And months later, they’re still celebrating it in a roundabout sort of way. Every time Auburn wins a game, Barry University’s athletics department feels they gain more and more notoriety as a program.
“It doesn’t affect us at all in terms of our record or our season because obviously it didn’t count but with that said, the national exposure it got, the recruiting impact we got that night has been constant,” Estes said. “Almost every day somebody still says, ‘You guys beat Auburn, this is great,’ and what that does for us is amazing.
“Now if Auburn keeps winning, this story will keep getting better for our players and community. Because isn’t it always the way that these stories get better about 20 years down the road.”
Following the victory at Auburn, Barry started its 2017-18 season 10-1, which included three more games of 100 or more points. The Buccaneers are 16-6 now, and their streak of being ranked in the Division II polls ended after 36 straight weeks from Jan. 12, 2016, to Jan. 23, 2018. However, Barry still leads the Sunshine State Conference with a 12-5 league record.
“I certainly think the Auburn game was used against us for motivation by every other coach in our league,” Estes said.
Auburn gave up 16 3-pointers from Barry and relinquished a 81-77 lead in regulation as Sawyer Glick hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
“If that was another Division I basketball team, we would be coming in here and talking about how tough they were to guard, how well they shot (and) the two guards that played so well,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said on the night of the loss. “Because it’s a Division II opponent, people are going to look at that and be like, ‘Oh, wow.’”
Estes says he now fears part of that ‘Oh, wow’ community might be future Division I head coaches suddenly not interested in scheduling preseason exhibition games against Barry University.
“There’s a very low percentage of Division I (coaches) who seek out high level competition in these exhibition games,” Estes said. “Most of those guys have high job security. We’re in negotiations with Notre Dame. I will discuss this with Notre Dame saying you’ll probably beat us but look at what it did for (Auburn) and how it served them well in their season. Auburn has taken a bad situation in early November against us and made it really good.”