January 8, 2020 - Auburn Arena
The first poll of the 2020 season found Auburn in very unfamiliar territory. The Tigers were ranked in the Top 5 for the first time in 20 years and looked to begin the season 14-0. Standing in the way was the Vanderbilt Commodores who were looking to break a long SEC losing streak after going 0-18 in the previous season in conference. It would be Jerry Stackhouse’s first trip to the Jungle as Auburn’s coach and between Saben Lee and Aaron Nesmith, his Commodores made Auburn earn this one.
The 1st half belonged to Isaac Okoro and Anfernee McLemore.
Time to look back at some of the biggest plays from last night: we’ll start with 1 of a trio of And-1s from Isaac Okoro who had a career high 23 points. pic.twitter.com/sN6iZwzXXG— Jaylin Williams/Simpson Fan Account (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 9, 2020
Anfernee McLemore doesn’t get the headlines but he was enormous in the 1st half last night putting points on the board with Okoro. pic.twitter.com/4v8xsmNuAq— Jaylin Williams/Simpson Fan Account (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 9, 2020
Auburn would continue to hold a narrow lead through most of the 1st half but no more than 6 which happened on this 3-pointer from Isaac Okoro.
This 3 from Okoro looked pretty good to me. If he hits this on a more consistent basis, look out!!! pic.twitter.com/Edg7lXrSrb— Jaylin Williams/Simpson Fan Account (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 9, 2020
If Isaac can continue to develop his 3-point shot, somebody is going to get an incredible player on Wednesday in the NBA Draft.
Auburn would lead 42-38 at halftime behind 17 from Okoro and 14 from McLemore.
After just 2 points in the 1st half, Danjel Purifoy would get Auburn going to start the 2nd half scoring the first 6 points of the half for Auburn. Allen Flanigan would make a 3-pointer to give Auburn its first double digit lead of the night, 51-40 with about 16 minutes to go. It would be the last 3 Auburn would make on the night.
Okoro did the majority of his scoring in the 1st half but he had one of the best plays of the year in the 2nd half. With Auburn up 57-49 with about 12 minutes to go, Okoro decided to absolutely crush the soul of this poor Vanderbilt defender.
Isaac Okoro just had the dunk of the year: pic.twitter.com/RIbQY57G6K— Auburn Hoops Fan Account (Jay) (@aubawn) January 9, 2020
ICE— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) January 9, 2020
Take Notice: Don't Jump. #WarEagle pic.twitter.com/HXX61ePs0E
And oh by the way, he would convert the 3-point play as he did on 3 occasions during this game to put Auburn back up 11.
Two more baskets from Danjel Purifoy would help Auburn build its biggest lead of the game, 14, but Vanderbilt wouldn’t go quietly into the night.
Saben Lee and Aaron Nesmith would close the gap to 3 with just under 3 minutes to go, 75-72. J’Von McCormick’s bucket with 2:30 to go would give Auburn a 5 point lead. But another 3 from Nesmith and 2 free throws with a minute go to would tie this game at 79.
J’Von McCormick would be fouled with 45 seconds to go and make 2 free throws and the Dores would miss a pair of layups and then they would foul Okoro who made 1-2 from the line. Vanderbilt got the ball down 3 with 22.8 seconds left but Danjel Purifoy never gave the Dores a chance to get a tying shot off.
Danjel’s Defense helps put a bow on Auburn’s 14th straight win to start the year. pic.twitter.com/am7rSVTlZ5— Jaylin Williams/Simpson Fan Account (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 9, 2020
McCormick would hit 1 more free throw and Vandy’s last gasp was no good and Auburn hung on to survive against Vanderbilt to go to 14-0. Auburn was 5-20 from 3-point range and just 1-9 in the 2nd half.
Isaac Okoro had a season (and career) high 23 points, 6 rebounds and was 10-14 from the free throw line. Anfernee McLemore had all of his 14 points in the first half. Austin Wiley, on his birthday, finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Danjel Purifoy scored 12 points with J’Von McCormick adding 10 points.
Here are the highlights!
"We don't have five seniors. We have six. @isaacokoro303 plays like a senior, knows how to communicate, not afraid of the moment, makes big plays." - @coachbrucepearl #WarEagle— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) January 9, 2020
Finished off No. 14. ✅#WarEagle pic.twitter.com/aJ1SU5R48I— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) January 9, 2020