Auburn basketball has a long and storied history dating back to the school’s first official season in 1910-11, which was also the very first year of varsity basketball in the SEC. Over 100 years later, Auburn’s program has seen many outstanding teams and players, but only some of those can be considered among the best ever in Auburn history. Here are the 10 greatest moments in Auburn basketball history ranked by their significance to the program’s overall success and their importance to Auburn’s place among college basketball’s elite teams.
1) Joe Cremo leads Auburn Basketball to first NCAA Tournament win
Cremo scored 27 points, including two free throws with six seconds left to cap Auburn’s 65-64 win over Mississippi State on March 13, 1973. The Tigers fell to Louisville 94-87 in their next game. The win against Mississippi State was Auburn’s first NCAA Tournament victory. Joe Cremo still holds five of Auburn’s top nine single-game scoring totals and made 54.3 percent of his field goals during his career at Auburn (1973-76). After completing his career at Auburn Basketball, Cremo played one season professionally with Gießen 46ers of Germany and then returned to AU as an assistant coach from 1978-79.
2) Chuck Person scores 52 points vs. Kentucky
Nothing could have prepared Kentucky fans for what they were about to see on Jan. 23, 1988. In Auburn’s 73-72 win over Kentucky, Chuck Person scored 52 points, breaking a 53-year-old record set by Wildcat legend Cliff Hagan. The Tigers’ guard dropped 19 of 28 field goals that night and was 14 of 17 from the line. He even made a 3-pointer at Rupp Arena for good measure, too. While Auburn’s magical season ultimately ended with a loss to Kansas in triple overtime, Person put on one of college basketball’s greatest individual performances that evening at Memorial Coliseum.
3) Ron Harper leads Auburn back from 21-point deficit vs. Georgia Tech
There have been a lot of amazing moments throughout Auburn basketball history, but none more impressive than when guard Ron Harper hit a game-winning three-pointer to give his team a 79–78 win over Georgia Tech. After trailing for almost 40 minutes, Harper’s desperation shot was his lone basket of the game, and it gave him 33 points—still an Auburn record. This is just one of many amazing moments from one of Auburn’s most successful runs in program history. The Tigers were SEC regular season champions during both seasons that Harper played for them (1990–91 and 1991–92), as well as making appearances in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 games both years.
4) David Bluthenthal hits the game-winning shot against Vanderbilt
March 1, 1995: David Bluthenthal’s three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left gave Auburn a 75-73 victory over Vanderbilt and clinched an improbable SEC championship for Tigers head coach Jeff Lebo. The win was only Auburn’s second over Vanderbilt since 1986, and even more surprising than its happening at all was where it happened—Auburn Basketball Arena. The Commodores had defeated every other team they played at home that season, including defending national champion Arkansas (which was undefeated until falling to Vandy), but couldn’t close out its toughest challenge of the year because Bluthenthal hit what would be remembered as one of college basketball’s biggest shots.
5) Chris Porter’s game-winning free throws against LSU
The Tigers traveled to Baton Rouge on Feb. 15, 1993 and trailed 70-64 with one second remaining in regulation. Porter forced a jump ball with LSU’s Jumaine Jones at midcourt and won possession. He then dribbled towards half court and launched a long desperation heave at the buzzer that banked home as time expired. The basket gave Auburn a 71-70 victory over LSU, one of its biggest wins ever at that point.
6) Buzzer-beater three by Chris Denson at Ole Miss
On February 19, 2013, with Auburn down by one point and 18 seconds left on the clock, Chris Denson sank a three-pointer from way downtown to send Auburn to victory. The Tigers’ bench went crazy and fans across Auburn cheered as it was clear that in one of those special nights, good fortune had shined on Auburn again. It’s hard to say what was better: winning or making history? The Tiger men’s basketball team became just the fourth program ever (and first since 1990) to win a game on a buzzer-beater three when it beat Ole Miss 80–77 at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
7) Varez Ward drills a go-ahead three-pointer vs. Ole Miss
After down six with under three minutes to play, Auburn wasn’t looking good against top-ranked Ole Miss. Varez Ward would quickly change that by drilling a big three from well beyond NBA range to take back momentum, and Avery was fouled on his drive. He’d go on to make one of two free throws for a five-point lead. After a Chris Denson free throw extended it to seven, Chuma Okeke would foul Elie Okobo on a drive at the other end and force him out of bounds. The ensuing possession ended with Ward’s ridiculous putback tip jam (his second score of that sequence) with 1:16 left—he threw down over James Young—that proved critical as Auburn won 73–70.
8) Adreian Payne hits a go-ahead three at Florida
Sure, there was a lot of hype around Adreian Payne heading into his freshman season for Auburn. But no one could have predicted just how good he would be during his first year on campus. In his first game against Florida, Payne dropped 21 points and 11 rebounds, but missed a shot that would have won it at the buzzer. In overtime, though, Payne redeemed himself by hitting a 3-pointer to win it for Auburn. It is still Auburn’s only true road win over Florida since 1999 and is remembered as one of the best games ever in Allen Arena history.
9) Malik Dunbar makes two clutch free throws vs. UConn
The Tigers had a dominant season under former head coach Cliff Ellis but suffered heartbreak at Madison Square Garden during that year’s NIT. Trailing UConn by one point with just seven seconds left on the clock, Ellis called upon freshman Malik Dunbar to hit two free throws and give Auburn a late lead. Dunbar complied, sealing an 88-87 victory and setting off a wild celebration among fans in attendance. Auburn would go on to lose in overtime of that year’s championship game, but both games still go down as some of biggest moments in program history. (Watch video)
10) Ronnie Brown returns from injury with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists against South Carolina
Auburn basketball fans had been through their fair share of hardship when it came to their football team, but things were looking up in 2004. Coming off a 6-6 season, Auburn was getting set to face South Carolina when running back Ronnie Brown took a pitch and rumbled his way 65 yards downfield before scoring with 3:28 left in the third quarter. The run was part of a 122-yard performance on 20 carries for Brown who totaled 187 all-purpose yards on just 19 touches and hit 7 of 11 passes for 53 yards with five catches and no turnovers. His evening wasn’t done, however, as he returned after missing five games due to injury.
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