Danjel Purifoy played just a few minutes of the first half tonight before picking up two fouls and sitting for the remainder of the first half. He only finished tied for 1st with Jared Harper in points scored for the night after re-entering the game in the 2nd half.
It was a sloppy night on the Plains as Georgia State put Auburn in the bonus around the first media timeout and the Panthers had three players with four fouls before there were 10 minutes to go in the game. Both teams were turning the ball over with maddening regularity in the first half. Even with all of those fouls, Auburn was not knocking down the shots from the stripe, and, so, they went into the half only up 35-30.
Over the course of the second half, with Danjel Purifoy back in the game, Auburn's offense began to find the rhythm they were lacking in the first half, and they slowly started pulling away.
Auburn was helped by the aforementioned foul issues for Georgia State, as one of their key players, Willie Clayton, spent most of the 2nd half on the bench with 4 fouls.
Whatever the case, the scoring in the second half picked up considerably. Purifoy finished the game with 19 points, almost all of them in the second half. Jared Harper made one of the most athletic three-point shots while being fouled I've ever seen. Horace Spencer had some issues with missing a dunk again, but he also had some excellent putbacks and picked up a highlight dunk thanks to a behind-the-back pass from T.J. Dunans.
Auburn was able to empty the bench and put the walk-ons in this one with a little over the minute to go. The Tigers walked out of Auburn Arena with an 83-65 victory for their second straight double-digit win. Both wins over pretty good mid-major teams.
Things We Learned
1) Danjel Purifoy is the most complete basketball player we've had in a long time. He plays defense. He shoots threes. He cleans up under the basket. He hits free throws. It's easy to see why Bruce Pearl was so high on Purifoy and why he was so frustrated he couldn't get him on the court last year. He's a difference maker, and you don't have to look any further than how much better Auburn was in the second half tonight vs the first half to see what an effect he has.
2) Jared Harper is the best point guard we've had in as long as I can remember. Not only is he just a good point guard, he's also an excellent shooter. He plays so much bigger than his 5'10 (listed) height.
3) Horace Spencer is still raw on offense, but he's improving. Yes, he had the badly missed dunk. He's also had some excellent tap-in putbacks, a good hook shot, and some great finishing dunks this year. He finished the night 3rd on the team with 12 points. If he can put everything together (and stay out of foul trouble), he could add a whole lot of value to this team which is so sorely lacking a big man in the middle.
4) This team could be better than we hoped. It's only the second game, but, as noted above, they already have two double-digit wins against two teams expected to be at or near the top of their mid-major conferences. Both made the NCAA Tournament two years ago. We won't truly know what those teams are like until later in the year to truly judge the wins, but Auburn's performance against them is still quite impressive. The best part? The players making the biggest impact right now are all freshmen or sophomores.
War Eagle! The Tigers next take the court Thursday night against Eastern Kentucky at 8:00pm Central.