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.
HE'S. BACK. pic.twitter.com/1j6TsmnuBT— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) December 30, 2021
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.
✅ Bucket pic.twitter.com/Sqgt29BNn2— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) December 30, 2021
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.
Big man buckets! pic.twitter.com/t03HPUU3mK— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) December 30, 2021
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.
oh boy...#BootUp pic.twitter.com/dFR682Nfil— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) December 30, 2021
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.