Auburn slow-played everything with a tough UCF team coming into Auburn Arena tonight, and the Tigers ended up getting a dominant win as they pulled away in the second half to beat the Knights. All told, Auburn was able to improve to 6-1 with an 85-68 win over UCF, once again getting huge performances from Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler.
Smith finished with 20 points, and another stat-packed night as he hit 3-6 from downtown and added 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Kessler controlled the glass with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocks as Auburn’s defense held UCF to just 36% from the floor, and 17% from three in the victory.
The game started in a hurry, with Auburn running out to an 8-4 lead in the first two minutes thanks to consecutive threes from Devan Cambridge. That lead increased to 13-6 five minutes in after K.D. Johnson’s first three of the game, but UCF answered and pulled to within a 19-17 deficit at the under-12 timeout. After Auburn built a quick 6-0 run, UCF strung together an 11-2 spurt of their own to take a 28-27 edge with threes from Darius Perry and Brandon Mahan. The last few minutes of the first half went back and forth, but a three from Jabari Smith put Auburn on top for good at 35-34, and the Tigers led 39-36 at the break.
The second half was much more orange tinted, as Auburn went up 47-40 on another Smith triple, but it wasn’t until back to back buckets by Wendell Green, Jr. near the 12:00 mark that Auburn built a double-digit advantage. Green’s layup and three ball put the Tigers on top 58-46, and they wouldn’t let the lead dip below 10 points the rest of the night as everyone got into the action scoring down the stretch. Preston Cook capped the scoring for Auburn with a three in the closing seconds to seal the win.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
- Jabari Smith went 50% from the floor, 50% from three, and 84% from the free throw line tonight. If you listened to the podcast this week, you’d know that Crow went over the 50-40-90 club, where you hit 50% of your shots, 40% from three, and 90% from the line. Coming into tonight, Smith was at 46% overall, 43% from deep, and 84% from the line. His numbers will tick up a bit, but that’s an interesting target to watch.
- Lior Berman has become an absolute madman, getting more and more minutes. The walk-on hit both of his threes tonight and played 14 minutes, grabbing a pair of rebounds in the process. He’s earned playing time going forward, and his added depth will certainly help the Tigers the rest of the way, and when Allen Flanigan comes back.
- The guys getting bench minutes are an extremely talented bunch, and it’s wild to see the lineup that Bruce is starting to settle on several games into the season. Kessler, Smith, Johnson, Jasper, and Cambridge started tonight, combining for 59 points, but when you can bring Jaylin Williams, Wendell Green, and Chris Moore, and Dylan Cardwell off the bench, you’re stacked. Like we mentioned above, add Flanigan to the mix when he’s healthy and watch how deep this team gets.
Auburn is back at home this weekend for a game with Yale on Saturday afternoon at 1 PM CST.