It was a different story from last year but the same result for Auburn (20-12, 10-8 SEC), who has gone one-and-done in the SEC Tournament for the second year in a row, dropping a second-round matchup with Arkansas 76-73. The Razorbacks (20-12, 8-10 SEC) will move on and look to strengthen their NCAA Tournament resume, while the Tigers will look to regroup and prepare for the madness of March.

“We're disappointed in the outcome. Kids battled back both halves. Lesser character team I don't think would have,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “I think physically they bothered us with their athleticism and their length. As a result, we got dominated on the boards, which made it really difficult for us to win the basketball game.”

It was a hard-fought contest, as several runs led by K.D. Johnson kept the Tigers in the game, even after a 15-point deficit emerged in the second half. Auburn had one final chance at the buzzer, but a Wendell Green Jr. three fell short. Green was 2-of-8 on the day, with 11 points, four assists and three turnovers. He did not make a shot in the second half. 

Even with the shot at the buzzer, it was hard for Auburn to overcome the size advantage of the Razorbacks, allowing Arkansas to dominate in the paint. The Razorbacks nearly doubled Auburn in rebounds, winning the battle on the glass 37-19, including 13-6 on the offensive boards. This rebounding advantage gave Arkansas 18 second-chance points to Auburn’s six, and led to 48 of the Razorbacks' 76 points coming in the painted area.

“We went through the things that we didn't do, the lack of physicality. Arkansas's athleticism, toughness. Where we got beat,” said Pearl. “Big guards, very physical. We didn't match their physicality.” 

Despite all of that, Auburn was within range, and a lot of that is due to K.D. Johnson. After failing to make a shot in last year’s first-round loss to Texas A&M, Johnson bounced back in a big way. 

Johnson led a bit 6-0 run at the end of the first half to make it a four-point game as both teams headed to the locker room, and with Auburn trailing by 15, he did more of the same in the second half. The K.D. rollercoaster hit its peak with 13 points in three minutes, and he finished the contest with 20 points, leading both teams. Auburn was +14 with him on the floor. 

“It felt good for myself. But on the team standpoint, I really wanted to get this win because I lost last year in the same way. I wanted to get farther this year,” Johnson said. “That was my mission, and I failed.”

Johnson was not alone in bringing Auburn back, as fellow Tigers Johni Broome and Allen Flanigan stepped up in the second half, reaching double figures in the final 20 minutes. While Broome had issues on the glass against the bigger Arkansas team, he was an efficient 5-of-6 from the floor in the second half, scoring 10 points and four rebounds. 

Flanigan was even better, with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from downtown and clutch defense down the stretch. The Little Rock native hit a go-ahead layup with under one minute remaining before Nick Smith Jr. answered with a clutch make of his own. 

“We got a good look,” Pearl said. “We made two really good runs in both halves. All we really needed was that stop at the end.”

Smith was one of four Razorbacks in double figures, and the team was led by Anthony Black with 19. They will meet with Texas A&M on Friday at 6 p.m. CST, looking to build the Tournament resume. 

Auburn will have to go home and watch as the rest of the SEC Tournament unfolds without the Tigers in Nashville. Bruce Pearl and his team will head back to Auburn and wait for Selection Sunday to find out their fate in the NCAA Tournament. The men's NCAA bracket and field will be revealed during the selection show at 6 p.m. ET on CBS. 

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