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Auburn remains undefeated, beats Lehigh at home

Auburn's J'Von McCormick (5) shoots a three pointer in the second half.  
Auburn Mens Basketball vs Lehigh on Saturday, December 21, 2019 in Auburn, Ala.  Anthony Hall/Auburn Athletics
Auburn's J'Von McCormick (5) shoots a three pointer in the second half. Auburn Mens Basketball vs Lehigh on Saturday, December 21, 2019 in Auburn, Ala. Anthony Hall/Auburn Athletics

AUBURN, AL - A rough offensive start does not stop Auburn from charging past Lehigh 74-51.

Bruce Pearl's squad came into tonight's game as one of four undefeated teams left in the nation, the only left of the Power 5. The Tigers' 10-0 start coming into tonight's game was one of their best in decades. 

Saturday night's contest got off to a slow start with Lehigh taking a 9-6 lead into the first media timeout. Auburn started off 0-5 from beyond the arc and 3-10 from the field. 

The Auburn offense continued to struggle with 11:24 left in the first half down 13-8. These struggles to this point would include three turnovers, 0-6 from the three and 31% from the field. 

Senior Austin Wiley said post game, "We came out flat in the first half and we can't do that."

"Our spacing wasn't great...we're just OK, offensively" said head coach Bruce Pearl.

After a mixture of substitutions and lineups, Auburn knew they would have to fight and earn every point they got in this game. After a Samir Doughty three pointer, some Anfernee McLemore free throws and an Isaac Okoro dunk, Auburn tied the game 20-20. 

A 14-0 run to close the half would get Auburn Arena up and going. This momentum would take the Tigers into halftime with a 25-20 lead.

A big key to getting the lead back before halftime for Auburn was the big defensive stops that they made. The Tigers forced 10 turnovers, four steals and 19 rebounds. 

"Our defense was, again, the difference" said Pearl.

Auburn's leading scorer was Austin Wiley who had six points and Lehigh's was Jeameril Wilson and Evan Taylor who both had five. 

Knowing who they were up against in the second half, both teams came out in the second half looking better offensively, but not great. With 17:15 to go in the game, Wiley made two free throws to give him a double double already on the night.

"He is a mobile big man, powerful big man, explosive big man. He is playing like that at both ends of the floor" said Bruce Pearl in regards to the senior's fourth double-double of the season. 

After a Flanigan layup with 13:52, Lehigh would call a timeout after their deficit would increase to eight. 

Auburn would immediately push their lead to 42-31 after a corner three from McLemore. After another basket from him and a lay up from Doughty, Lehigh would call their third timeout of the game being down 46-33. 

A 3:17 Auburn scoring drought would end with two Okoro free throws with 8:42 left in the game.

Out of absolutely nowhere, J'Von McCormick, the veteran, steps up and hits three consecutive three point shots on three consecutive possessions. McCormick forces the last timeout of the game for Lehigh, up 61-44 with 5:10 to go. 

McCormick in his own words about his hot hand said, "I just felt like I couldn't miss". 

Out of the timeout, McCormick continued his scoring streak with an alley-oop, courtesy of Doughty. And just to prove he can do it all, he later gave the freshman Devan Cambridge an explosive alley-oop as well to ignite the crowd. 65-47, Tigers.

McCormick was not done however as he would end the game with another alley-oop off the backboard to Cambridge. 

"Devan Cambridge is a freak athlete" said McCormick, "...I look back and saw him and we made that connection."

Lehigh would roll over and discontinue their efforts of making a comeback as this one was long over. Auburn would go on to win 74-51. 

Commenting about the Mountain Hawks, Coach Pearl said "My hats off to Lehigh, they played extremely well".

The win improves Auburn's record to 11-0, and the Tigers remain one of four undefeated teams left in the nation.

When asked about that fact, Wiley said "It means a lot...but we have just got to take it game by game".

Senior Austin Wiley finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds. J'Von McCormick would be the Tigers' leading scorer with 18 points and 4 assists.

Auburn will take a holiday break over the next week and will be back in action on Sunday, December 29th. They will play host to Lipscomb at 3:00 PM CST on SEC Network. 

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