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Tip-Off Countdown: #23 (22) Auburn 70, South Alabama 69

The night Isaac Okoro called game.

Kelly Donoho Photography

November 12th, 2019 - Mitchell Center


Auburn’s done a fantastic job of scheduling in-state schools in the Bruce Pearl tenure, with at least one in-state opponent every year of his tenure. Last year, the Tigers went on the road for some weeknight action against a veteran South Alabama squad that ended up winning 20 games, and as always when we discuss Auburn athletic events, it was a nailbiter.

The first half was a little slow to get going, with the Tigers turning the ball over three times and attempting (and missing) just one shot in the first 2:50 of the game. Things picked up, though, and a deep ball barrage (6 of 11 for the half) headlined by Jamal Johnson gave Auburn a 38-30 lead going into the break.

The second half saw Auburn extend the lead to 14 points at the under-8 stoppage. Then the run happened. What started as a 63-49 Auburn lead slowly dwindled away, with the only Auburn points in the succeeding seven minutes coming on an and-one from Samir Doughty. Coinciding with the Auburn scoring drought was Andre Fox absolutely catching fire for USA, contributing 13 points in the last eight minutes of the game.

Luckily, after a 17-3 USA run tied the game at 66, Isaac Okoro decided to show in just his third college game that he was even better than the hype. Instead of settling for a relatively open corner-three with 45 seconds remaining, Okoro tight-roped the baseline and delivered a massive two-hand jam to (somewhat) quiet the home crowd.

Unfortunately, Andre Fox scored the last of his game-high 23 points on a three to give USA the lead with 28 seconds to go. Auburn’s play at the end to try and win was... questionable, to say the least. What resulted was a missed Anfernee McLemore three with 13 seconds left, a Doughty rebound and kickout to J’Von McCormick for a missed corner-three with nine seconds left, another Doughty rebound, and finally...

Isaac Okoro was fantastic all night. The freshman stuffed the stat-sheet, leading the team with 15 points, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and snagging the second most rebounds with 6. There might have been 10 different points in this game where you saw #23 and knew he wasn’t going to be here long, whether it was a transition block or dishing the rock to his shooters.

This was a sloppy game from Auburn, and a game you might expect a young team fresh off a historic run to lose a grip of. But with some solid contributions from the bench, plus a dominant performance from a future NBA lottery pick, everything turned out a-okay.