Auburn Strolls Past Indiana State
Before tip-off of the Auburn–Indiana State game and for the early minutes of the match, State’s 20 point win over the Indiana Hoosiers was the talk from the broadcasters. At the 12-minute mark of the first half, Auburn was already cruising 15–7 before taking a 48–27 lead into the halftime break.
At that point, the conversation shifted to just how well the Auburn team was playing under coach Bruce Pearl, despite the FBI/NCAA investigation swirling around the program and despite missing Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley, the two best players from last season.
In the end, Auburn walked away with an 83–64 quarterfinal win, which really wasn’t even that close. The Tigers advance in the Charleston Classic and will take on the winner of the Old Dominion and Temple match later today.
How did the Tigers cruise to an early victory that saw 12 different Tiger players log minutes? It was a team effort.
Last season when the Tigers were struggling, it was frequently Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron who had to pick up the slack. While Anfernee McLemore was good in spelling Austin Wiley, losing Horace Spencer early in the year really hurt Auburn in the size department. Consequently, Indiana State had a size advantage over Auburn, but McLemore continued to step up. Transfer Desean Murray also made his presence known as he and McLemore two combined for seven offensive rebounds, something that Tiger fans haven’t seen. Auburn logged 12 offensive rebounds on the day, which really propelled it to victory.
Auburn had nine different players log points with Bryce Brown and Murray leading the way with 15 and 14, respectively. Murray logged a double-double with 12 rebounds.
The team win wasn’t without issues. Auburn played very sloppily for long stretches, but the Sycamores played a really horrendous game. In all, Auburn had 15 turnovers and 28 personal fouls. In addition, Auburn was tagged with two technical fouls, though the Sycamores kicked in one of their own in a game that was called awfully tightly by the referees.
Auburn did not shoot the ball particularly well, shooting just 30 per cent from three-point land (6–20). Leading the way was Murray, who was a perfect 2–2. Blue chip freshman Chuma Okeke was 2–3. Young Okeke made brilliant plays, but frequently followed them up with bad fouls, something that can and should be corrected. Normally sharpshooting Bryce Brown was 0–7, but his slashing inside game continues to develop.
The Tigers were just 42 percent on the day with free throw percentage sitting at 74 percent.
It isn’t usual to have many negative things to say about an easy win, but the Tigers were far from flawless and have to get better. Still, the issues that presented themselves can be corrected. More importantly, the Tigers have looked like a legitimate team in the first two games, often making the extra pass and rebounding extremely well. Most importantly, the Tigers are playing real defense for the first time in a long time.
It remains to be seen if and when Purifoy and Wiley will return, but the Tigers are playing the brand of ball that will earn a lot of wins, despite not having two NBA-type players available. That is especially true if Anfernee McLemore continues to play so well in all phases of the game. Even with Harper and Heron probably being the best players on the floor for Auburn, the stats show the effect of having them play selflessly.
Brown and Murray lead in points. The Tigers have five players averaging over 10 points per game, though the two-game sample size is small. This style of play shows Auburn’s evolution from being one dimensional to being able to win without the three point shot. However, if Auburn gets hot beyond the arc, it could be a very, very good team.
The Tigers tip off tomorrow at 10:00 AM Central time. Make sure to follow me @Best5Zach as I live tweet the game action.