The home crowd was electric, Auburn’s defense was suffocating, and the stars showed out for the good Tigers as Auburn won the SEC opener over previously-undefeated LSU 70-55.
Auburn improves to 12-1 with the win and takes the first SEC win of the season in a huge game over a team with one of the top defenses in the country. Instead, Auburn’s defense showed out with Walker Kessler leading the way in an eraser frontcourt as he nearly accomplished a triple-double with 16 points, 11 blocks, and 9 rebounds. LSU finished the game with just a 29% clip from the floor and 21% from downtown.
There’s not a much better possible way for a team to start a basketball game than what we saw from Auburn in this one. The Tigers fell behind 1-0 after LSU’s Eric Gaines split a pair of foul shots in the opening minute, and then proceeded to run off an 18-0 spurt.
K.D. Johnson got the scoring started with a three-pointer before two straight layups from Wendell Green, Jr. Walker Kessler got into the action with a pair of buckets, and a Lior Berman second-chance score made the margin 15-1. Allen Flanigan followed things up in his first start of the season with a three that brough the house down.
Tari Eason made LSU’s first field goal with 9:14 left in the first half to stem the bleeding, and the Bayou Bengals would string together two consecutive threes in the next minute to cut the lead to 21-10 in favor of Auburn. Soon thereafter, Auburn led just 21-14, and needed a bit of a spark to break the LSU run, and Jabari Smith answered with a three to get into the action.
LSU cut the lead to 6 points a couple of minutes later on a free throw from Gaines, but Auburn increased the margin and got a buzzer-beater jumper from Jabari Smith with a single second remaining to establish a 32-21 lead at halftime.
After the break, Auburn turned it on, with Allen Flanigan opening the scoring with a jumper before a pair of free throws from Smith rebuilt a 15-point edge. Wendell Green got fouled on a three-pointer and made all three free throws to put the Tigers up 41-24, and then when LSU had trimmed the lead down to single digits again, Walker Kessler stood up and answered from the perimeter.
With Missouri transfer Xavier Pinson in foul trouble, the Bayou Bengals had to rely partly on Tari Eason for help, and his layup with 6:40 to play pulled LSU within 6 points again at 50-44 Auburn. After that, two buckets by K.D. Johnson and Kessler reestablished the double-digit lead, and a three by Flanigan with 3:24 left gave the Tigers a 62-48 advantage. At that point, Auburn Arena started to really feel it, and the Tigers piled on with Smith hitting another three with 2:29 left to push the lead to 67-50 in favor of the home team. Auburn cruised to a 70-55 win in the end with Green hitting a final coffin three-pointer in the last 18 seconds to seal it.
NUMBERS OF THE NIGHT
Walker Kessler didn’t get a triple double, but he dominated LSU with 16 points, 11 blocks, and 9 rebounds.— Jay Phillips (@aubawn) December 30, 2021
Great game all around from Auburn’s front court. Jabari Smith had 16 points and 3 rebounds, and he and Kessler held LSU’s starting 4 and 5 to 13 points on 5-21 shooting.
If you’re not on the post-victory response train to the opposing team’s final score tweet, tonight is where the nation takes notice.
Auburn will travel to Columbia, SC for a tilt with South Carolina on Tuesday, January 4th. Tip-off time between the Tigers and the Gamecocks will come at 5:30 pm CST.