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Jan 8, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Walker Kessler (13) shoots the ball during the game between Auburn and Oklahoma at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics
Jan 8, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Walker Kessler (13) shoots the ball during the game between Auburn and Oklahoma at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

Auburn Dominates SEC/Big 12 Challenge with win over Oklahoma 86-68

For the first time since 2016, the number one ranked Auburn Tigers (20-1, 8-0 SEC) took on the Oklahoma Sooners (13-8, 3-5 Big 12) in Auburn Arena. The game took place on a historic day for Auburn Men’s Basketball as a banner was hung up in the southwest corner for past Auburn head coach Sonny Smith, and in a speech to the Auburn family said, “It’s a great time to be an Auburn Tiger.” The Auburn Tigers would prove him right in a physical game thanks to great big man play from Walker Kessler, and a first pick performance from Jabari Smith, taking home both point and rebound leader with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The combined efforts of Kessler and Smith led to a 86-68 Auburn win.

Walker Kessler got the first points of the game, on a crowd pleaser of a dunk, after which Oklahoma would never come close to the lead again. In a bit of a change from Auburn’s previous game against Missouri, in which Jabari Smith only shot 2-15, Smith shot 6-14. When asked about the difference, Jabari said “Flow of the game and being back at home” had a big thing to do with it.

With 6:50 left in the first half, Walker Kessler did what some thought was impossible, made a three, and would later go on to make another one. After going two for four on the day, Walker seemed grateful and when asked about it said “My coaching staff and teammates kept putting faith in me,” and with that three we should see more of that over the course of the season

In the second half Oklahoma’s Tanner Groves began to bleed from his knee causing a stoppage in play, and with a combined 40 personal fouls some could say the game resembled a Madison Square Garden prize fight, especially with addition of Oklahoma’s blood. 

Around the last couple of minutes, Auburn was still covering the spread of 10 set by Vegas, and Auburn fans across the arena were letting their voices heard of how happy they were with the Tigers. This was the was the third straight day an Auburn team had won in this arena, and to put it simply, in the words of Bruce Pearl “its been a good week.” 

Of course, Bruce Pearl had another reason to celebrate as this week it was announced he would be “locked up for life” with a 50M dollar deal.

Overall, this was a great showcase for the Auburn Tigers as Bruce Pearl said when asked about the SEC/ Big 12 challenge, “This challenge matters, (and it) matters on selection Sunday.” However, before selection show, Auburn still has a long road ahead of them, most notably a rematch with the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-7) on the first of February, at 8:00pm to restart SEC play. Although Auburn already beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa, as people have always told me about football, “you never can tell about the Iron Bowl.” 

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