After nine days off, many of us knew that tonight’s version of the Auburn Tigers may come out of the tunnel a bit rusty. We weren’t wrong, and Auburn got taken to the wire by a very good Furman team before winning in overtime 81-78. Isaac Okoro led the way for Auburn with 18 points, including an 8-9 effort from the foul line, while Austin Wiley had another double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Auburn’s offense was as cold as can be to start the game, taking more than three minutes to scratch the scoreboard before J’Von McCormick’s steal and dunk. The Tigers led just 4-2 at the first timeout, and 12-9 at the under-12 break, but Furman had started to find a little range from downtown. Samir Doughty’s three-point play that put Auburn up 23-17 with 8:25 to go in the first half established the largest lead of the game for the Tigers at that point, but the Paladins would answer. Late in the first half, the Tigers held a 30-28 lead, but that’s when Furman got a Jaylon Pugh three-pointer to take the lead back for the first time since the opening minutes. Pugh followed that with another three, and then Clay Mounce added another as the Paladins opened a 39-31 halftime lead.
In the first half, Auburn’s offense had taken forever to wake up, and never really did come alive at all. The Tigers went just 1-9 from deep, while Furman hit 7-15 threes. Auburn also went to the free throw line plenty, but made just 6-12 shots. Furthermore, Auburn turned the ball over 9 times, and Furman scored 14 points off of those mistakes.
After halftime, the lead got bigger for the Paladins. A four-point opportunity opened the half, and a double digit lead followed as Jordan Lyons buried the first shot of the half. An Alex Hunter layup put the Paladins up 46-32 for their largest lead of the game, and Auburn was stuck searching for answers. Finally, McCormick hit a huge three to cut the deficit down to 48-40, and from that point Samir Doughty and Austin Wiley started to take over. The Tigers slowly whittled the lead down to one possession on a pair of Doughty free throws with eight minutes left, but in the closing moments it was J’Von McCormick making up for some early mistakes. He tied the game at 64, then again at 66 with 5 seconds to play, and just missed a reverse layup as time expired to win the game, sending the contest into overtime.
In overtime, fouls were an issue for both sides with Anfernee McLemore already gone, and two Furman players with four fouls. Isaac Okoro scored the first bucket of the extra period to give Auburn its first lead since late in the first half, but Noah Gurley buried a three for Furman to put the Paladins up 69-68 a minute into overtime. He would foul out moments later as Austin Wiley converted a three-point play to put Auburn up 71-69, and a pair of Okoro foul shots put the lead at four points.
Danjel Purifoy capped a 7-0 run before a Furman timeout as the Tigers started to frustrate the Paladins for the first time all game. Wiley turned in another double double with his 10th and 11th rebounds in overtime, but Furman didn’t wither and die. Clay Mounce hit a three to pull the Paladins back within one possession, but a pair of Austin Wiley free throws and a slashing Doughty drive reestablished a two-score margin with just 12 seconds to go. That didn’t mean that the drama was done, as the Paladins buried another three with 2 seconds to play, cutting the lead to one point at 79-78. However, a pair of Okoro foul shots iced it and Auburn escaped 81-78 to improve to 8-0.
Up next for the Tigers, Auburn will take on Saint Louis on December 14th at 3 pm CST. War Eagle!