Auburn struggled mightily for the first half in a mirror image of last year’s meeting with USF, but fortunes turned out the same yet again. The Tigers came back from a 30-21 halftime deficit to exert command and find the necessary offense in the second half to win 67-59.
Allen Flanigan provided the early offense when Auburn needed help, finishing with 18 points on 6-10 shooting, and Wendell Green took over in the closing minutes. Green scored on three straight possessions, scored 20 points, and avenged his 0-fer game from the floor in Tampa last year.
With the win, Auburn improves to 2-0 on the young season and will take on Winthrop on Tuesday in their next action.
If you’re a fan of ugly first halves, tonight was your cup of tea. It took more than seven minutes for Auburn to hit a bucket, during which time USF had built a 9-3 lead. Allen Flanigan’s three from the right wing was the Tigers’ first made basket, and then a jumper from Tre Donaldson and a dunk from Chris Moore helped pull Auburn within a point at 12-11. Unfortunately, the shots stayed off-target and the entire team seemed out of sorts with the Bulls’ defensive effort. Auburn fell behind 18-11 before pulling back to within one possession at 20-18 after a bucket from Yohan Traore and free throws from Flanigan. However, USF found a spurt of points in transition with multiple Tigers in foul trouble and unable to defend as tenaciously as they would like. Keyshawn Bryant’s putback dunk in the closing seconds gave the Bulls a 30-21 halftime lead.
Auburn hit just 6-24 shots in the first half, with a 2-14 mark from deep and a 7-13 effort from the foul line. They were outrebounded, and committed 11 first-half turnovers.
The second half began much like the first, but two key baskets by Chris Moore led to a three from Wendell Green that cut the margin down to 33-29 with 16:41 left to play. Green then scored in transition and that preceded a three from Traore to trim the margin to 35-34, and then a Flanigan bucket on the baseline kept Auburn within a point at 37-36 during a timeout at the 13:16 mark. Flanigan hit another three out of the timeout to give Auburn a 39-37 lead, and then a breakaway dunk from Dylan Cardwell suddenly pushed the Tigers into a two-possession lead after a quick 5-0 run.
Flanigan got the ball on a great inbound play call and jammed it home, then Green took a charge on USF’s next possession to get the crowd back into it with 9:30 to play. Dylan Cardwell followed that with a pair of foul shots, and then a thunderous dunk on a lob from Green to give the Tigers a 49-42 lead. USF got back into the game at the foul line, trimming the margin to 52-49 before Jaylin Williams reestablished a five-point edge with a floater in the lane.
Wendell Green then took over the game. He scored on three straight possessions to take a 54-49 game to a 60-52 advantage at the final timeout of the game as he also reached double digit points. The Tigers were able to close things out in the final couple of minutes with offensive rebounding and a couple of made shots at the foul line, and they escaped with a 67-59 victory.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It’s Wendell for the way he overcame that slow start and foul trouble to end up pacing the Tigers in the second half. His back-to-back-to-back buckets that put the game fully in Auburn’s hands were great, and he scored 20 points and dominated at the foul line, a place where Auburn struggled otherwise.
Auburn will host Winthrop at Neville Arena as part of the non-bracketed portion of the Cancun Challenge. Tip-off comes from the Plains at 6 pm CST/7 pm EST.