It had been quite some time since Auburn had met another team with both sides of the equation on 7-game winning streaks. Tonight, Murray State came into Auburn Arena for the final tilt in a three-game series and the Tigers took it to the Racers from start to finish.
Auburn won 71-58, with Wendell Green, Jr. and Jabari Smith notching double-doubles, and the Tigers controlled the glass with a 48-33 rebounding edge and an 11-1 block advantage. With the win, Bruce Pearl’s team finishes up the non-conference portion of the schedule at 11-1, with the lone loss coming to UConn in the Bahamas.
Tonight was indicative of the Bruce Pearl effect, as a 5 pm local time tip-off saw standing room only seats going for exorbitant prices, and the fans in attendance weren’t disappointed. From the announcement that Preseason All-SEC player Allen Flanigan would be returning to the lineup after surgery in the offseason, to the highlight reel that the Tigers produced, tonight was a fun one on the Plains.
Murray State got out to a 9-4 lead early on, but a Devan Cambridge dunk on an assist from Jabari Smith energized the team and began what would turn into a 15-2 run. Smith hit a three moments later to put the Tigers up for the first time in the game at 10-9, and they didn’t look back. Green found Dylan Cardwell on another dunk right after that, and the Tigers showed just how dominant they would be on the interior all night long.
Walker Kessler hit a three-pointer shortly thereafter, and the Tigers built a 21-11 edgemidway through the half. Cambridge’s three with 7:58 left in the half put Auburn ahead 26-15, but a second-chance three by Jaylin Williams just before the final media timeout of the half gave the Tigers their largest margin thus far at 12 points. Auburn led 37-25 in the final minute before a last-second shot by KJ Williams pulled Murray State within 10 points at halftime.
Murray State cut the lead to just 6 points early in the second half as the Tigers took some time to rev up after the intermission, but a three by Jabari Smith and two foul shots by Green rebuilt the 11-point edge, and then Green provided the highlight of the night and put the game out of reach.
With the shot clock winding down, Green found himself short of half court, so he just launched a three that miraculously swished through the hoop, putting Auburn ahead 49-35 and draining any hopes for the Racers.
From there, the Tigers cruised. Green hit a jumper several minutes later to build a 64-44 lead for Auburn and give them their largest lead of the night thus far at 20 points, but K.D. Johnson hit a shot with just 2 minutes remaining to put Auburn up by 21. From there, Murray State scored late to make the final score more respectable, but the Tigers controlled this one nearly from the start and had no trouble taking care of business to improve to 11-1.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Uh, you’ll see this tonight on the SC Top 10. Give me Sonny Smith’s reaction to this immediately.
Auburn will break for Christmas and begin SEC play at home against LSU a week from tonight with a 6 pm CST tip-off time.