Auburn gave Oklahoma a taste of what life in the SEC might be like when the Sooners join the league in the coming years along with Texas, and they might not enjoy the prognostications for the future if today was any indication.
The top-ranked Tigers got up early, faltered a bit during stretches in the middle of the game, but ran away with it in the end and scored an 86-68 win over Oklahoma to improve to 20-1 overall, and win their 17th straight game. Auburn returned to the friendly confines of their home arena, where the new pregame intro lit the place up.
Jabari Smith bounced back from his bad night at Missouri and led all scorers with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Walker Kessler added another 21 points and 9 rebounds, and the Tigers had fun while the team honored Sonny Smith.
They raised the banner honoring former coach Sonny Smith on Saturday as he joined Auburn’s other basketball greats in the rafters of Auburn Arena.— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) January 29, 2022
Smith coached Auburn from 1978-89, taking the Tigers to five straight NCAA Tournaments. He’s now the analyst on Auburn radio. pic.twitter.com/80CsslGmo0
Auburn began the game much faster than they’d done over the past few contests, running out to an 11-5 lead at the first timeout. Kessler had 6 points during that stretch, and then Jabari Smith took over during the next phase. After both teams went through a tough spurt of poor shooting (at one point Oklahoma went 9+ minutes between field goals in the first half), Smith scored 7 straight to build an 18-9 lead just past the midway point of the opening frame. Moments later, the Tigers pushed the margin to 14 points on a Walker Kessler three, and led 31-19 at the final timeout of the first half.
In the closing minutes before halftime, a Zep Jasper layup gave Auburn its largest lead of the half at 37-22, and the Tigers held an easy 39-27 lead at the break. During that first half, Oklahoma made just seven field goals and shot just 31% from the floor.
After halftime, the Sooners made their best push to pull even. Five straight points from Umoja Gibson cut the lead to 44-35 at the first break, and his layup a few minutes later pulled Oklahoma within a 50-47 deficit. However, tough offensive rebounding led to two trips to the foul line for Devan Cambridge and he completed a three-point play to rebuild the lead to eight points with 11:55 left to play. Kessler hit his second three of the game, and then a layup by Jasper gave Auburn the 62-52 lead back with 8:04 remaining. After that, K.D. Johnson scored five straight points, and any hope that Oklahoma had was dashed.
Auburn continued to built the lead, running it out to 14 points on an alley-oop to Dylan Cardwell, and then to 18 points on a Walker Kessler three-point play. To cap things off Dylan Cardwell got a steal on a fastbreak and tried to lob the ball to Devan Cambridge, but ended up swishing the lob to establish a 20-point Tiger lead. In the end , Auburn won a fun game easily, and took the 18-point win to hold serve in their portion of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Auburn will watch to see what Alabama does today against #4 Baylor and then welcome the Crimson Tide for the return trip to Auburn Arena this Tuesday night. Tip-off comes at 8 pm CST for a White Out Game.