AUBURN, Ala. - Surrounded by a sea of orange, the Tigers had all eyes waiting to see if they could a compete in a ranked matchup against Arkansas after struggling through the first part of SEC play. The question being asked was surely answered right away. Wendell Green Jr. would collect the ball from the tip-off. As the crowd drew silent, the junior moved from the left of the floor to the top of the key where he would launch a three-pointer on the opening possession. He hit the floor as time stood still at Neville Arena where everyone locked eyes on the ball as it sore through the air. A roar of a tiger erupted from the crowd for what seemed like the first time in forever. Green Jr. would go on to make the shot and convert the four point play as Auburn danced their way to a 72-59 victory over the Razorbacks.
“We needed that,” Auburn head coach Bruce Peal said.
If there were any speculations if Wendell Green Jr. could produce from the starting spot for the Tigers, he put those to rest tonight. Green Jr. would account for 12 points in the first half alone. While shining on the offensive end of the court he would also make his defensive presence known with three steals, most notably one that led to a Johni Broome alley-hoop that sent the arena into a frenzy. The guard would go on to add seven more points in the second half to help him finish with a team-high 19 points.
“We got Wendell some really good looks against the Arkansas defense,” Pearl said. “He got us off to a great start.”
Allen Flanigan would make his mark on the game in a big way. Coming off the bench, the guard would go on to score 18 points, which was good for second on the team, only behind Green Jr. The senior would provide much needed shooting to a squad that has been lacking in that area.
“It means a lot just knowing my teammates need me,” Flanigan said. “Being able to step up for them tonight was big.”
After a rough showing on the offensive end against Georgia, the Tigers showed much improvement all around against Arkansas, especially shooting. Auburn finished shooting 43.6% from the field, while shooting 33% from deep. This was due in large part to Flanagan’s clinical night from the three-point line which saw him score five baskets from deep.
Another much welcomed area of improvement was turnovers for the Tigers. Auburn did not commit a turnover until the 9:36 mark in the first half. The Blue & Orange would go on to finish the game without allowing a single point off a turnover.
“We ran offensive things that didn’t require a ton of passing,” Pearl credited. “When you pass the ball too much against Arkansas they jump passing lanes.”
Despite improvements in many areas, rebounding will still raise concerns. Arkansas was able to collect 45 rebounds, which 17 were offensive. The most notable example of the struggles came early in the first half when numerous Razorback players brought in five straight offensive rebounds to keep the play alive.
The Auburn Jungle was in full show tonight as Arkansas shot a sub-par 19-32 from the free throw line. It was a completely different story for Auburn, the Tigers finished going 17-22 from the line in a game where those points came in crucial.
The duo of Johni Broome and Dylan Cardwell made it tough for any Razorback to make a play in the paint, which led the way for Arkansas to finish the night shooting under 35%. Broome made headlines with six blocks, but Cardwell’s added presence is a big boost for the Auburn defense as a whole.
“The guards we can push them down there and they are going to clean it up for us and all we have to do is get the loose ball,” Green Jr. said.
Auburn will hit the road and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss next Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. with broadcasting by ESPNU.