There is nothing better than beating Alabama. Auburn got it done tonight 84-64 in front of an extremely loud crowd in Auburn Arena.
It was an up and down, back and forth game from the jump. Neither team looked its best in the early going. Alabama took a lead, but Auburn made four out of its last five shots to end the first half and went in to the break tied at 30 with the Tide. Auburn shot better from the field (47.6%), from three (42.9%) and free throw line (53.8%) than Alabama did in the first half, but turned the ball over nine times.
Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron combined for 1 point in the first half, and Heron was nonexistent until the second. Luckily for the Tigers, they had the best player on the court in big number 50.
This was Austin Wiley’s best game of his young career by a mile. The 17-year old had 19 points and 9 rebounds and was even more dominant than that line indicates. Alabama plays a more traditional lineup than some teams Auburn has faced, and that allowed Wiley to go against the types of defenses he most likely saw a lot in high school. It also meant he wasn’t chasing three point shooters when he was on D. He was exceptional. Wiley took 18 free throws (one less than Alabama took as a team) and made 11 of them count. When your center is getting to the line that much, it can wear the other team down both physically and mentally. Not to mention getting Alabama’s talented forwards in foul trouble definitely helped.
If you have been watching these past few games and thinking “Gosh, Anfernee Mclemore is playing really well,” you are right. Mclemore’s per-minute stats are astronomical. He is averaging a little over a point and a rebound for every four minutes of game action he gets. That is efficient. So is his True Shooting Percentage, which is at .69, good for best on the team.
Solid performances from Harper and Johnson, again, with Wiley’s dominance on the block really made this a fun game to watch. When the scoring started to come to life in the second half, you could really tell why this team has so much potential. Heron owned an entire section of the game when he got hot. Wiley had been clogging the middle, and the young lefty Mustapha Heron took his time and started draining threes. His cold blooded three that made it 72-59 with 3:08 left looked like it might rip the roof off the building.
Let me say some more about Ronnie Johnson. The dude just gets his job done. Tonight he had 17 points, and other than one breakaway dunk, they were the quietest 17 points you’ve ever seen scored. He is so reliable and so consistently good. Guys like him make basketball teams go from good to great because he refuses to get rattled, refuses to quit fighting, and refuses to get caught up in all the talk that goes on during the game.
Danjel Purifoy played tonight, but didn’t look like the same player yet. Coach Pearl limited his minutes and brought him off the bench, but Danjel still contributed five points, three rebounds, and three big steals. His defense was really good tonight.
The only negative I could think of from this game is I would like to see Auburn record more team assists. With as many talented guards as the Tigers have, it seems too many points come from players having to create for themselves off the bounce. More ball movement please and thank you.
War Eagle everyone, Bama has been beaten by 20 thanks to ole Patty Keim knocking down the pettiest three there at the end. We are all that three pointer.