In front of an impressive traveling crowd, Auburn (18-9, 8-6) faced off against Vanderbilt (15-12, 7-6) in a back and forth battle all game long. The Tigers had the upper hand multiple times but were unable to close it out as Vanderbilt was able to come out victorious by a score of 67-65.
“Really disappointed,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I thought we played really well defensively.”
Early on it was a challenge to score and take a sizable lead for both teams, but ultimately Vanderbilt was the first to make a statement. Myles Stute was able to convert back-to-back three-point shots for the Commodores, one of which was curtesy of an Auburn turnover, to fuel a 10-0 run midway through the first half.
Auburn would not go away easy though with the leadership of Johni Broome. The sophomore showed up and showed out again, finishing with 20 points and six rebounds.
Broome played a huge role in the domination paint presence Auburn had. Through the first half Vanderbilt was only able to manage six points in the paint, while adding 14 more in the second, much in part to the defensive efforts of the forward.
On the offensive end, the Tigers were able to feed Broome and boost their mark in the paint, finishing with 40 points. The most impressive part is Broome contributed at a very high level after missing part of the week due to illness.
“Johni was under the weather this week,” Pearl said. “He was not feeling well after the game and was out Wednesday and Thursday, came back to practice Friday. Very impressed with the fact he was able to get it turned around.”
Auburn was unable to control Vanderbilt big man Liam Robbins at all throughout the night. The forward finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. It became a constant theme that when Robbins would make any move at all, he would be fouled. Those fouls led to 17 points from the free throw line.
“Hard to beat, Pearl said. “Liam Robbins was a handful. He made three two-point baskets and was 17-for-20 from the foul line.”
Free throws did not seem to favor the Tigers at all. Vanderbilt would see the line 27 times, converting on 20, while Auburn only took 10 attempts, converting five when all said and done.
Jaylin Williams was a bright spot for Auburn. The forward made his presence known early with 12 points in the first half to lead the charge for the Blue & Orange. The senior went on to add five more points in the second half and finish with six rebounds.
K.D. Johnson gave Auburn a chance at the end of the game with a deep three-pointer to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining.
In the end, it would not be enough, as Vanderbilt would respond with a score of their own, practically running past the whole Auburn defense.
“He [Ezra Manjon] came with a head of steam,” Pearl said. “Zep did not do much to slow him down and he turned the corner on Jaylin.”
Wendell Green Jr. was a surprise struggle on the night. The guard finished the night with five points while going 2-for-14. This comes as a surprise, as Green has cemented himself as a reliable scorer for the team throughout the season.
“I thought Ezra [Manjon] got up underneath him,” Pearl said. “Just did a great job defensively, made it difficult.”
Auburn will look to get back on track Wednesday as Ole Miss will come to Neville Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. with broadcasting by the SEC Network.