We were all pretty sure that it would be Auburn’s toughest game of the non-conference slate, especially after what transpired last year in Raleigh, and that was no lie. Still, the Tigers held strong after a slow start and beat NC State 79-73 to stay perfect on the year.
If you like whistles and fouls, the first several minutes were definitely right up your alley. Auburn opened the scoring by getting a three-point play from Austin Wiley on the first possession of the game, but that was all the offense the Tigers could muster for a while. NC State opened up an 10-5 lead thanks to three baskets from C.J. Bryce, but Auburn stuck close on a huge three from Anfernee McLemore.
Moments later, Auburn tied the game on a second three-point play from Wiley, and then a three and a foul from Jamal Johnson gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 17-16. He converted the four-point play, and that was part of an 11-0 run for Auburn. The Tigers built a 26-16 lead, but the Wolfpack battled back behind two straight threes from Pat Andree and Bryce, and regained the lead on a 17-2 run of their own to go up 33-28. Samir Doughty then stopped the bleeding with a long left wing three and a driving layup to tie the game at 33 at the final timeout of the first half. Doughty then turned on the charm and forced a wild three from Markell Johnson that turned into a three-point play on the other end to give Auburn the lead back. After a trippy first half, the Tigers led 38-37.
Auburn held onto a 45-40 lead at the first break of the second half after a long Samir Doughty three and a McLemore layup. As fouls began to mount, both sides dealt with players in danger. Allen Flanigan earned his fourth foul just before Markell Johnson got his fourth foul, and both players would have to sit down well before the midway point of the second half. Devon Daniels fouled out for NC State with 10:32 to play, and Auburn was in the double bonus from that point onward. Danjel Purifoy scored his first points of the game on a lead pass from Doughty with 9:15 to go to give the Tigers a 59-54 edge, and Kevin Keats gambled to put Johnson back in the game with four fouls. Auburn got a transition dunk from Purifoy and led 61-58 at the under-8 timeout.
A Braxton Beverly layup with 5:10 to go gave NC State their first lead of the second half, but Doughty answered on a second chance possession to tie the game at 64, and then Auburn caught the Wolfpack napping for an easy Wiley dunk. The Tigers led 66-64 at the final timeout of the game, and Samir Doughty headed to the foul line out of the break, where he’d bury a pair. After a Beverly brick and a Wiley block, Okoro drew C.J. Bryce’s fourth foul and went 2-2 at the line to put Auburn on top 70-64. After a bad pass, Austin Wiley started the fastbreak, and J’Von McCormick put home a layup over Beverly. Markell Johnson missed two foul shots for the Wolfpack, and Auburn started to run clock. Bryce fouled out as the game’s leading scorer, but Johnson hit a runner to cut the lead to 72-66 with 1:20 to play.
Leading 74-69, Samir Doughty iced the game with a step-back three as the shot clock wound down, and the Tigers were able to hold on for the victory to stay perfect.
Doughty’s three gave him 22 points, a game high for either side, and he finished with 24. Austin Wiley neared another double double with 10 points and 8 rebounds, while J’Von McCormick notched 14 points as Auburn shot 45% overall from the floor. The Tigers hit 6-19 threes (NC State went 7-20), and shot 23-36 from the foul line. The two teams combined for 50 fouls on the night as the play stretched late into the evening. Up next for Auburn, they’ll take on Lehigh this Saturday before the Christmas break, and they’ll have a chance to move to 11-0. War Eagle!