ATLANTA, Ga. – Is Auburn able to compete with the best?
That is a question many people are asking. After offensive woes and head scratching plays all around, the question will be asked all around Auburn after their performance against Memphis in this year’s Holiday Hoopsgiving which saw them collect their first loss of the year by a score of 82-73.
“Memphis did a great job tonight,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We didn’t want to let their best players beat us and they did.”
Right away Auburn showed off their ability from the three-point strip with three separate makes from behind the arc within the first five minutes of the game. Zep Jasper would get the first points of the game with a three pointer that saw practically everyone in the stands rise to their feet and cheer. The energy was there, the fans were loud, it was practically a home game for Auburn.
Despite this, Auburn would fall behind early before showing signs of life later on.
Auburn would put together an 8-0 run midway through the first half which was highlighted by none other than K.D. Johnson. The guard would lay one in off the glass before sprinting down the court to cap off a well-run fast break on the next possession. Johnson would go on to finish with a team-high 14 points along with fellow guard Wendell Green Jr.
Memphis would respond to Auburn’s run with one of their own to close out the half. With just over a minute left in the half they would put together a 9-0 run to go into the half with a 38-32 lead.
Chris Moore notched his second, and final, three pointers of the night coming out of the break. The forward would be one of the lone bright spots for Auburn, collect 12 points while adding the best plus-minus on the team at plus seven.
Even with the hot start Auburn’s defense did not show any signs of improvement in the second half. Memphis guard Kendric Davis, the No. 1 transfer in the country this past offseason, had his way with Auburn. The former SMU player tallied 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assist in the win in Atlanta.
“Their defense was terrific, ours just wasn’t,” Pearl said. “I knew there were times we struggled offensively but if we really guarded and took some ownership of that they wouldn’t have scored 82 points.”
Dawning their Orange jerseys once again, Auburn would struggle on the glass. Memphis would dominate with 43 rebounds to Auburn’s 23 boards. Memphis would hammer home their precense with 14 rebounds on the offensive glass. Despite a plethora of offensive rebounds, Auburn was able to keep Memphis to 11 second chance points throughout the entirety of the game.
The struggles were especially made known when Auburn was only able to tally two blocks, which both came from Dylan Cardwell after the 37-minute mark of the game. Blocks have been the corner stone of the defense, as Auburn has consistently ranked as one of the top programs in the nation when it comes to that statistic.
Chance Westry and Yohan Traore struggled once again. The freshman duo combined for zero points in 20 minutes of action. Westry has been battling back from surgery that saw him miss all of the fall with the team, while Traore has struggled to make his mark.
“Those guys are five, six years older than they are. I’m not making excuses for my freshman, but the lights are bright,” Pearl said. “They are going to be terrific players, but right now in this moment they have to step up and deliver when called upon and they are working hard and they are doing the best they can to prepare.”
Auburn will be back in action at Neville Arena Wednesday against Georgia State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT with coverage on SEC Network+.