It started slowly, and things looked bleak for a while in the first half, but Auburn took control tonight over Louisiana-Monroe to take a 93-65 win at Auburn Arena to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
In a foul-filled game, Auburn took a while to get going against a team that seemed to be playing possum after falling to LSU on opening night. The Tigers’ defense didn’t seem to be quite as sharp as it was against Morehead State, and Louisiana Monroe was able to find plenty of room early to drive and score, and got every single one of Auburn’s big men in foul trouble in the first half. Jabari Smith led all scorers with 23 points, including a 3-5 performance from downtown, and 10 rebounds for his first double-double.
ULM took the early lead on a transition three from Elijah Gonzales, but the Tigers took hold and led 6-5 at the first timeout. Auburn built a 13-5 lead after a three from KD Johnson, and buckets from Dylan Cardwell and Wendell Green, but ULM came back and took a 21-18 edge after a Koreem Ozier three at the 7:13 mark of the first half. After a Harrison Russell three moments later, ULM had put together its own 8-point lead and had the Tigers on the ropes. Trailing 32-26, Jabari Smith hit two threes in the span of a minute to pull Auburn within a possession, and with free throws from Green down the stretch trailed just 39-37 at halftime.
Early on in the second half, you could tell that Bruce Pearl had peeled the paint in the locker room at halftime, as Auburn came out on fire. After allowing the opening bucket to ULM, the Tigers ripped off a 7-0 run to regain control, and then Chris Moore put together a special three-point play to give Auburn a 47-42 edge and give the Tigers control.
Another three-point play by Moore and a three by Johnson put the Tigers up 55-45 at the 13:25 mark in the second half, which was their largest lead at the time, and it kept on growing. Back-to-back dunks by Jaylin Williams put Auburn ahead 67-51 near the 8-minute mark, and free throws from KD Johnson moments later gave the Tigers a 20-point edge at 72-52. By the under-4 timeout of the second half, Auburn had totally taken over, leading 83-60. Jabari Smith, who had a decent debut against Morehead State, did most of the work tonight, scoring evenly in both halves on the way to his first career double-double.
In the end, the Tigers cruised to a win and improved to 2-0.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
- The Tigers blocked another TEN shots tonight. Despite ULM’s ability to drive the lane, teams will learn exactly how difficult it’s going to be to score in the paint against this front court soon enough.
- KD Johnson and Chris Moore combined for 34 points off the bench, while Walker Kessler, Zep Jasper, and Devan Cambridge only combined for 10 as starters. Auburn has a bunch of guys that can come in and force production, and it was necessary tonight in the first half when things weren’t working.
Auburn will take a whole week off before taking on USF next Friday, the 19th for a 6 pm CST tipoff in Tampa.