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About Last Night: Basketball Season Starts the Right Way

Auburn 101, USA 58

NCAA Basketball: South Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

If you were expecting a slow start, you came to the wrong place.

Auburn basketball dominated South Alabama last night, rolling away to win by 43 points (and it wasn’t that close) in the season opener at Auburn Arena.

There were some thoughts that without Austin Wiley (foot sprain), Danjel Purifoy (nine-game suspension), and with Samir Doughty possibly being limited, the Tigers might not play their best against a crafty team from Mobile. Those thoughts were quickly eliminated from the first possession, when Jared Harper found Anfernee McLemore for an opening dunk, and the rout was on.

Things just continued that way as Auburn began the barrage from distance, with Harper, Doughty, and Bryce Brown getting into the mix.

Auburn got up by as many as 27 points in the first half, led by 19 at the break, and eventually opened up a 50 point advantage when J’Von McCormick hit a three in the closing minutes to put the Tigers up 101-51. Bruce Pearl had eight scholarship players, but fifteen different guys saw the floor for Auburn in the win.

This was a different looking team as well. Last year they were talented, but often pieced together runs and baskets based on that skill and the momentum. Auburn often went through periods of poor shooting that frustrated fans and coaches alike. If last night was any indicator of the future for this season, we might not have those worries at all.

The opening minutes showed a team that was focused, methodical, and ruthless. There was a killer instinct. It honestly reminded me of the opening couple of games of the 2004 football season. It was all business against an inferior opponent, and there was never a threat that Auburn would struggle with the Jaguars last night.

In one game, Auburn eclipsed its best three-point total from last year.

Eighteen made threes, shooting 47% in that regard. Auburn hit better than 50% from the floor overall. They moved the ball, getting 24 assists on 38 makes, and only committed 13 turnovers. That’s with walk-ons playing a good portion of the final few minutes of the game as well.

But what really stands out are some of the individual numbers...

Jared Harper - 20 points, 13 assists, 1 turnover, 6-10 3-pt field goals

Chuma Okeke - 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3-5 3-pt field goals

Anfernee McLemore - 11 points, 8 rebounds, and no lingering effects from that broken leg

Samir Doughty - 14 points on 5-7 shooting

Harper was back to his old tricks, hitting threes from Opelika, Chuma looked like a smooth and shredded machine, McLemore seemed like he wanted to play basketball after missing the end of the season, and Doughty is an efficient weapon on both ends of the floor. Bryce Brown kept hitting threes, Horace Spencer provided muscle in the middle, Malik Dunbar scored 16 points in mop-up duty, and J’Von McCormick looked like a capable replacement for Davion Mitchell. I’d be ecstatic if those guys were the lineup we had to use every game.

But we haven’t even seen what happens when Austin Wiley gets to play again, and Danjel Purifoy’s entrance in a few weeks will also elevate this team to another plane. South Alabama’s not a bad team at all, and Auburn had literally no trouble with them.

Check out some thoughts from Will McLaughlin and Ryan Sterritt after the game.

It will get a good bit tougher this Friday, with #25 Washington coming in, but the Huskies struggled with Western Kentucky last night before running away in the second half. It’ll be a great test for the Tigers, and a chance for Auburn to establish themselves as the class of the SEC after what happened to Kentucky and Florida last night. War Eagle!