Auburn weathered a rough first half offensively, and withstood a hailstorm of early second half threes from the Wildcats before running away in the final minutes for a 73-57 win to finish in third-place at the Maui Invitational.
This matchup started similarly to the first two games in Maui, where Auburn’s perimeter shooting lacked in the opening minutes, but J’Von McCormick buried a triple and Austin Wiley’s short jumped gave the Tigers a 7-5 lead at the first timeout of the game. Each team committed two offensive fouls early, with two going against Bryce Brown, sending him to the bench in the first six minutes. Things turned around offensively, though, as a Malik Dunbar three preceded a Horace Spencer putback and a Jared Harper fastbreak score to give the Tigers a 14-5 edge at the under-12 timeout.
Dunbar continued to heat up in the first half with another bucket and a three, but fouls continued to mount and Arizona found themselves in the bonus by the nine-minute mark. Chase Jeter scored six points in a row for Arizona to cut the margin to 19-13, but J’Von McCormick answered with a three as the shot clock expired to push the lead back to nine at the next timeout. Arizona made an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 24-22 in favor of the Tigers at the final break of the half, and Auburn was all out of sorts. However, the Tigers did get a pair of foul shots from Harper and a quick layup from Brown to reestablish a 28-22 lead at halftime. In the first twenty minutes, there were 11 total offensive fouls called between the two teams, to go along with 23 turnovers compared to just 19 made field goals.
The second half began with five threes in the first 2:30, as Arizona hit one on each of their first three possessions, and Bryce Brown answered twice before a lob to Okeke gave Auburn a 36-31 lead. At the next stoppage, the third three by Brandon Randolph had trimmed the Tiger lead to 38-36. Auburn took a 45-39 lead thanks to Malik Dunbar’s three-point play, then Arizona’s sixth three of the half cut the lead in half before a Bryce Brown layup drew a foul to take us into the under-12 break.
Arizona continued to hit from deep, as Justin Coleman buried a pair of triples (the Wildcats were 8-9 from three to start the half), but Malik Dunbar hit a jumper and then stuffed a huge dunk off of a turnover to rebuild a six-point lead for Auburn at the nine-minute mark.
Samir Doughty hit a bank-shot three for his first points of the night, and then Chase Jeter fouled out for Arizona before a Horace Spencer dunk and a Doughty steal and score made it a quick 63-51 lead for the Tigers with 5:44 to play. Bryce Brown followed that run with a three to push the margin to 15 points, and it also gave him the Auburn record for most threes in a career, surpassing Wesley Person’s mark of 262 made threes.
At the final break of the game, Auburn had finally held a double-digit lead for a few minutes, and with the margin 68-54, some Arizona fans started to head to the exits.
Bryce Brown led Auburn with 19 points, including 4-8 shooting from downtown, while Malik Dunbar added 15 huge bench points. Brandon Randolph scored 18 to lead Arizona in the loss.
Auburn’s next game will come a week from tonight at home against Saint Peter’s, with tipoff set for 7 pm CST at Auburn Arena. The Tigers take a much-needed break after three games in three days on the islands.