The Auburn Tigers entered the 2022-23 season with more question marks than answers, but six games into SEC play, the Tigers have seemingly hit their stride, knocking off the LSU Tigers 67-49.
With the third and 22 picks in the 2022 NBA Draft removed from the roster, Auburn and head coach Bruce Pearl had to look in the mirror as well as down the bench to find answers for the missing pieces. Auburn entered conference play 9-3 but after a three-point win vs Florida and a twelve-point loss on the road in Athens, speculation of actual legitimacy hit the Tigers hard.
The Auburn Tigers (15-3, 5-1 SEC) traveled down to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers (12-6, 1-5 SEC) inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday, January 18, seeking their first road win versus the Bayou Bengals since February of 2015.
Auburn won the opening tip and Zep Jasper found the bottom of the net in the first ten seconds of game time, and Auburn never tied or trailed the remaining 39:50. Auburn found themselves leading at the half 32-21 following a great defensive performance and shooting 45% on triples, going 5-11.
LSU’s leading scorer, KJ Williams, led all scorers with 12 at the half, but Auburn held his teammates to a 2-17 first half performance.
LSU started the second half on an 11-2 run within the first four minutes to cut the lead to two before Auburn stretched it back to double digits less than four minutes later with threes from Allen Flanigan, KD Johnson, and Wendell Green Jr. The Tigers never looked back.
Although the Tigers lack the “must see TV” athlete such as Jabari Smith Jr or Walker Kessler from last year’s squad, the Tigers make up for it with solid group play and the ability for one player to step up when needed most (ex: Jaylin Williams’ 21 point performance last time out vs Mississippi State). Tonight’s game was simply an all around effort from the Tigers.
“We just have to keep playing together, playing the right way and finding ways to win," Auburn’s junior guard Wendell Green Jr mentioned referencing the team effort that was displayed on the floor. “Everyone is coming together and that’s really good for us right now."
The bigger names, Wendell Green Jr and Jaylin Williams, both finished with 14 points, but key role players stepped up as well. Lior Berman and KD Johnson both added eight points off the bench while Dylan Cardwell, Allen Flanigan and Jaylin Williams all finished with seven boards apiece, and several others played key roles defensively to shut down LSU.
“He had to play against both Dylan Cardwell and Johni Broome”, head coach Bruce Pearl mentioned in regard to shutting down the threat of KJ Williams in the second half. "He played heavy minutes and just got tired."
Since the loss to Georgia, the Tigers are 4-0 with two of those wins on the road. It seems like the Tigers have found what works for them, both offensively and defensively. The roster that Auburn currently possesses can be a really underrated threat, because there’s not one key player that opponents can set all the defensive focus on. With the “anyone at any given time” mentality of the team, any player can strike for 15-20 points, which could carry Auburn to the victory.
The Tigers will play their second straight road game and third in the last four this Saturday in Columbia, South Carolina, where the Gamecocks sit at 8-10, and 1-4 in conference play.