In a night that saw it all, it was ultimately the veterans who made the difference for Auburn. K.D. Johnson, Chris Moore, and Jalyin Williams all finished with double digits in the scoring column to lead the Tigers to a fourth straight win in a 72-56 victory over Texas Southern University.
“We beat a good team tonight,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.
Tensions were high throughout the game. Highlighted by a hard foul committed on K.D. Johnson that saw Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl rush over to check on his star guard is when the sparks would begin to fly with words being exchanged between the two teams. Later on, Allen Flanigan would exchange words with Texas Southern assists in a conversation that would see Auburn assistant coach Steven Pearl chime in.
“When it did get elevated out guys definitely did respond. That was the turning point,” Pearl said. “K.D. got a really hard foul. I though our guys definitely responded to all the physicality and talk.”
Johnson, who has struggled early on this year, most notable in the game against USF that saw him score zero points, showed the Auburn faithful what he is made of. The transfer from Georgia thrived in the chippy game, possibly the type of play he is most known for, leading the team with 16 points.
“He was still intense, still aggressive but under control. He did it with purpose and he has been really working hard to do that. He was really effective out there and good to see his shot go in,” Pearl said.
Auburn was without starting center Johni Broome tonight due to an injury picked up Tuesday night against Winthrop.
“He banged knees in the game against Winthrop. It tightened up on him that evening and he hasn’t been able to practice,” Pearl said. “I think he’ll be fine for Cancun.”
Dylan Cardwell would get the call to start. Cardwell would go on to have three blocks to extend his dominate showing on the defensive end throughout this season thus far. The Augusta, Georgia, native is currently second in the nation in blocks per game and third in total blocks.
However, it would be senior Jaylin Williams that would fill the shoes left by Broome.
Williams used his veteran knowledge to his advantage throughout the game. The senior would play the most minutes on the team while scoring 14 points and collecting eight rebounds for the near double-double. In addition, the forward impressed on the defensive end of the floor with a team-high four steals.
“It was just being aggressive,” Williams said. “It was being confident, trusting in my abilities and trusting in my coach believing.”
The Tigers would hold a narrow lead of two going into halftime. Out of the break, a pair of K.D. Johnson charity stripe visits would cap off an 11-0 run by Auburn to regain a controlling lead.
Auburn would not give up the lead after that and would continue their dominance in the second half of games this season.
“We did a much better job the second half,” Pearl said.
Auburn would have numerous memorable plays throughout the game, but one would stand above the rest. A Johnson steal that would lead to a pass off the backboard and find the hands of Flanigan for the reverse dunk in what would make Neville Arena erupt to add on to an already impressive run by the Tigers in the second half.
Chris Moore finished of an impressive night with 14 points on the back of three baskets from behind the arc. The junior would be life of the Tigers offense in the second half with 11 of his points coming after the break.
Auburn will now head to Cancun next week to participate in the Cancun Challenge. The Tigers will face off against Bradley in the opening matchup next Tuesday and either Northwestern or Liberty in the second game next Wednesday. Auburn will return to Neville Arena on November 27th to face off against Saint Louis in what is expected to be their toughest challenge yet.