With so much attention on No. 3 Auburn, it was hard for the Tigers to stay focused on the task at hand.
The Tigers, who started the season with their highest preseason ranking ever and their first season-opening sellout in four years, got 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds Friday night from Mamadou N'diaye in a sloppy 65-59 win over UAB.
"Starting out tonight we were too emotional," N'diaye said. "We were just too ready to start the game, get things going."
"I'm glad we won, but that's about it," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis said. "I thought we played very selfish on offense and our shot selection was poor. We gave possessions away and we can't do that and expect to win."
Still, the game was never really close. UAB (0-1) was able to hang in it by fouling Auburn down the stretch.
"We didn't come here to get beat by six, we came here to win," said UAB coach Murry Bartow. "I'm not into moral victories."
Auburn took its largest lead 58-42 on two free throws by N'diaye with 2:13 to play. The Tigers had pulled away with a 6-0 run, holding the Blazers scoreless for almost four minutes.
But UAB made the final score deceiving by fouling the Tigers on every possession from there, and making four straight 3-pointers to make it closer.
"We felt like we had a chance to win," said Bartow. "We just didn't make enough plays to beat a top five team on the road."
Eric Holmes hit consecutive 3s his first at 1:55 was UAB's first basket since Mark Kimbrough's jumper a the 5:18 mark to cut the score to 58-48 with 1:01 to play.
After Chris Porter's two free throws, Kimbrough hit a 3-pointer that made it 60-51.
Auburn then made just one of its next three free throws and UAB cut it to 61-56 on Myron Ransom's 3-pointer.
Auburn stretched it to 63-56 on Doc Robinson's two foul shots. The Blazers closed to 63-59 the closest they made it in the second half when Reggie Sharp fouled Holmes on his 3-point attempt. Holmes made all three of his free throws with 6.6 seconds to play.
"I thought when we got to double digits, we should have put them away," Ellis said. "We just didn't."
LeAndrew Bass and Holmes led UAB with 14 points each. Kimbrough added 13.
Porter and Robinson had 11 points each for Auburn. Daymeon Fishback, the only new starter in Auburn's lineup, scored 10 points.
The game was sloppy from the beginning 44 fouls were called and neither team shot very well.
"We have got to be patient," Robinson said. "We just wasted a lot of possessions, rushing shots and trying to get shots off. We have to work on that, on being patient."
UAB shot just 32 percent and made only 10-of-21 free throws.
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