Despite shooting 6-24 from 3-point range and 22-35 from the free throw line, tonight is more about Auburn’s defense. The Tigers held Davidson’s top 3 scorers from last season to a combined 13 points and Auburn got a huge neutral-court win over a team that looks primed to be in the NCAA Tournament this season, 76-66.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 13 point lead, with a lot of that offensive production coming from freshman Isaac Okoro. Okoro made his first 2 3-pointers of the game and had 11 of his team-high 17 points in the 1st half. He was 5-6 from the field and 5-8 from the charity stripe.
One of the big questions going into this game was how would Auburn fare against reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Jon Axel Gudmundsson, and Kellan Grady, both returning players who averaged 17 points a game last year. Okoro, Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick and others did an outstanding job guarding them as they combined to go 4-17 from the field.
Davidson made their living in the 1st half from the free throw line going 16-17 and despite shooting just 7-26 from the field, the Tigers held a narrow 37-35 halftime lead.
Auburn started the 2nd half on a 9-1 run, started by a 3-pointer from Danjel Purifoy. Purifoy had 14 points and 6 rebounds and made a team high 3 3s. including the first 4 points of the game from Doughty, who was one of 5 Auburn players to score in double figures. McCormick looked much more comfortable in his 2nd game starting at PG, adding 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 0 turnovers tonight.
While Okoro was the opener, Anfernee McLemore was the closer tonight. McLemore got credit for 3 blocked shots, but really had 5 on the night, including this one.
With Davidson keeping it close, Auburn needed someone step up to close the game out. Anfernee got the job done, especially late, blocking a shot, finishing an alley-oop, and made a layup in the final minute to finish off the Wildcats.
Auburn moves to 2-0 on the season and travels to Mobile for the first time since 1995 to take on South Alabama at a sold-out Mitchell Center at 7PM on ESPN+. War Eagle!
BOX SCORE BREAKDOWN
I (Ryan) am going to start trying to include these on the game recaps. Thanks to Sam Snelling over at Rock M Nation, I’ve got a swanky new box score that gives us all the advanced stats for the game and the season. To keep this simple for now, I’m just going to share the things that stick out to me and let you peruse the rest of the box score.
First of all, here’s the sheet.
- Tonight was a bit of a shared effort, with five guys in double digits. Anfernee McLemore and Issac Okoro were the stars of the show, particularly in the second half. Between the two of them, they accounted for roughly half the offensive value on the team, 29 points, and went 9 for 11 from the field. On a night where the guards struggled, that was a hell of a performance from the two of them.
- Even in just 9 minutes, Cambridge was effective off the bench. As long as Okoro is dominating at the 3, it might be tough for him to get minutes there, but with Jamal Johnson and Tyrell Jones struggling early so far this year, perhaps Cambridge might see some minutes at the 2?
- Though Wiley couldn’t get much done in the paint, he had a solid night on the defensive end, pulling in 9 defensive rebounds and adding a devastating block. In fact, the big man brought in exactly half of all of the possible defensive boards when he was on the court.
- When I said the guards struggled, that was mainly with respect to Samir. The senior was only 3-10 from the field with no threes made. He put up 1.1 points per shot (PPS), which was severely boosted by the 5-6 from the free throw line. He did add 5 rebounds, but the 4 turnovers and 3 fouls didn’t help things.
- Auburn was the better team in terms of points per shot and per possession. Even though the team struggled from the arc and free throw line, they shot nearly 70% from 2. Contrast that to Davidson’s 30% from 2. Woof.
- This is the second game (out of... two) where Auburn’s turnovers have been a problem. A BCI (Ball Control Index) under 1.0 again is not something you want to see.