December 14th, 2019 - Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex
Before we talk about anything on the court, I want it to be remembered what this game is all about. Auburn has taken part in the Mike Slive Invitational in each of its first two seasons, which, from the Mike Slive Foundation Website, is “... a marquee matchup played in celebration of the life and impact of former SEC and Conference USA Commissioner Mike Slive, while raising national awareness in the fight against prostate cancer”.
It’s an event near and dear to Bruce Pearl’s heart, as along with supporting the Slive Foundation, he has brought the AUtlive initiative to Auburn, as well as supporting and volunteering time with Children’s Harbor. During this weekend last December, the team spent some time at Children’s Harbor, and Bruce was honored with a token of their appreciation.
After one of the tightest games of the 2018-19 season, Auburn came back to Birmingham, this time to play the St. Louis Billikens out of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Things were sloppy out of the gate, with the Tigers spotting the Bills a 9-0 lead thanks to six missed shots and two turnovers in the first 4+ minutes. Auburn quickly snapped back, though, with a Danjel Purifoy transition bucket and two J’Von McCormick big time threes.
The first half was streaky for both teams. McCormick would end up with a big first half, with 12 points and generally looking like he was ready to fully assume the point guard role for a team with tournament aspirations. The Auburn defense clamped down after the first 9-0 run, as the half time score was just 28-21 Auburn.
The Tigers never gave up the lead in the second half, but the lead constantly bounced double digits and one possession, with Auburn never fully able to put St. Louis away. At the narrowest point, right around the 8 minute mark and the score 47-44, McCormick made a ridiculous hustle-steal at midcourt, which led to a transition three for Okoro. Moments later, we got to see one of the first glimpses that Devan Cambridge was an absolute freak at the rim.
From here out, the Billikens were never really in striking distance again.
J’Von McCormick was far and away the MVP of this game, finishing with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and just a single turnover. Behind him, though, was very little - Auburn shot a combined 35% from the field and 46% from the charity stripe. The defense was significantly better, toting five steals and eight blocks with with no starter picking up more than two fouls.
Despite the sloppy win, it propelled Auburn to a 9-0 start, and left them as one of just five remaining unbeatens. Not too shabby if you ask me.