Night number one of the post Final Four era started off a bit sloppily, but overall well for Auburn as they took down Georgia Southern at home 83-74. Turnovers and fouls plagued the Tigers for a good portion of the ballgame before finally finding the right combinations and settling in on both ends of the floor. While Austin Wiley, Samir Doughty, and Danjel Purifoy all picked up right where they left off last year, newcomers Isaac Okor, Jamal Johnson, and Devan Cambridge gave new hope to replace the losses from last years’ team.
The first half was a sloppy affair for the new-look Tigers. Between turnovers on the first two possessions and a slew of fouls on key starters, Auburn had to fight to build a 41-37 lead at the break, but much of it was done thanks to play in the paint. Austin Wiley scored 9 first half points, including a couple of ferocious dunks, but Georgia Southern outscored the Tigers inside 26 points to 20. One of the bright spots for Auburn during the first twenty minutes was the play of freshman Isaac Okoro. During the first few minutes he scored his first collegiate points on a nifty tip-in followed by a strong move to the rim for a dunk.
Samir Doughty made Auburn’s first three-pointer of the season with 12:16 to go to cut the GSU lead down to 15-13, but the Eagles pulled ahead by six (their largest lead) right after that. Wiley led an 8-0 run to put the Tigers back on top momentarily, and things would be tight down the stretch into the locker room. Thankfully, the threes started falling for the Tigers as Danjel Purifoy hit a pair, Jamal Johnson made one, and Devan Cambridge buried two in the final 90 seconds to push Auburn’s edge to four.
In the second half, Auburn started to settle in and find the combination that worked for them. It mainly centered around going inside to Austin Wiley and letting things filter out through that action. Wiley had four points in the early going after the break before J’Von McCormick scratched the scorebook for the first time on a putback to give the Tigers a 53-45 edge at the 14:06 mark. Three fouls shots from Jamal Johnson and a slippery drive from Doughty pushed Auburn’s lead to double digits for the first time at 58-48 with twelve minutes to go, but a Danjel Purifoy three made it 61-48 at the under-12 break of the second half as Auburn began to pull away.
However, Georgia Southern didn’t go away, and the Tigers’ lead was cut to just two possessions before J’Von McCormick was able to convert an old-fashioned three point play to put Auburn back up 70-61 with five minutes left. Okoro hit double digits with a bucket just after that, and the Tigers led 74-64 at the final timeout of the contest. Down the stretch, Auburn hit a few clutch shots and showed off the athletic ability to put distance between themselves and the Eagles, finally winning by nine, 83-74, to improve to 1-0 on the year.
Samir Doughty led all scorers with 20 points, adding 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy each notched 13 points, while Isaac Okoro finished his Auburn debut with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Georgia Southern was led by Ike Smith and Isaiah Crawley, who each posted 16 points in the loss.
Up next for Auburn, the Tigers take on Davidson at the Veterans Classic at Annapolis, MD. Tipoff comes Friday night at 5 pm CST/6 pm EST.