Auburn had its way with Iowa State for about 38 minutes in today’s ballgame, and despite a messy finish, the Tigers escaped 80-76 to improve to 17-2 on the season.
It started much differently for Auburn than it has over the rest of the season, with a torrid shooting display from outside. The Tigers hit 9 threes in the first half and ran out to a lead for once, playing from ahead for nearly the entire time. In the end, it was Isaac Okoro who finished the job, scoring 19 points with 14 in the second half.
After falling behind 4-0 to start, Isaac Okoro hit the game’s first three, followed immediately by a J’Von McCormick triple to tie the game at 6. Back to back long balls from Anfernee McLemore and Samir Doughty double up the Cyclones, and after Danjel Purifoy and Jamal Johnson buried threes, Auburn led 29-18 with 8:47 left. Purifoy had another three at the end of the period, and the Tigers took a 42-31 advantage into the locker room. It was probably Auburn’s most efficient offensive half of the year, shooting 46% overall and 9-20 from the perimeter.
The second half began just as well as the first half finished, with Auburn increasing the lead. A 5-0 spurt pushed the margin to 16 out of the gate, and then a Purifoy three plus two McCormick foul shots gave the Tigers their largest lead of the day at 55-37 with 14:13 remaining. A 10-0 run by Iowa State midway through the half cut that margin to just 57-50, however, and Auburn had to find a way to break the pressure. They turned to Isaac Okoro, who scored just 5 points in the first half. Okoro took responsibility on his shoulders, driving with ease into the paint and scoring the next 19 points for Auburn in combo with Samir Doughty. Leading 78-64 with 2:32 to play, Auburn got tight and allowed Iowa State to pull back within just 5 points, but late free throws iced the game to the tune of an 80-76 victory.
Okoro’s 19 points led Auburn, while Rasir Bolton posted 23 for Iowa State. Samir Doughty added 18 points, with Purifoy and McCormick each scoring 11 points apiece.
Auburn’s inability to finish the game strongly was frustrating, but in the end the Tigers are 17-2 with a huge matchup against Kentucky set for next weekend. In the meantime, Auburn will head to Oxford to tangle with an Ole Miss team that bamboozled them twice last season. Today’s three point shooting exhibition was a much-needed sight and Auburn’s fast start was also extremely welcome. With Okoro and Doughty learning how and when they can take over games, it seems that the woes of last week are in the past, and the offense has gotten more reliable over the last two matchups. This will be an important week, and a chance for Auburn to get the biggest win of the season when the Wildcats come calling a week from today. War Eagle!aub