No Wiley, No Problem in Auburn’s Blowout of Mizzou
Auburn forward Chuma Okeke (5) defends against Missouri forward Kevin Puryear (24) at Auburn Arena. Auburn blew out Mizzou, snapping a 3-game losing streak. (photo: USA TODAY Sports)
After sustaining a lower leg injury, Auburn center Austin Wiley has had to watch his team from the bench the last four games. In that stretch the Tigers lost three games without their big man. However, Wednesday night Auburn stopped the bleeding with an important SEC win over Missouri.
The three losses came on the road, causing the Tigers to fall out of the Top 25. It appears that playing in front of the home crowd is just what Bruce Pearl’s team needed. Before the game senior Horace Spencer said, “I feel like coming back home allows us to regroup …We just need to come in here and take care of business.” And take care of business is exactly what they did.
After only leading by 3 at the break, the Tigers came out on fire in the second half, scoring 58 points to finish with a 92–58 win and send the black and gold Tigers limping back to Columbia. The large margin of victory was due to eight different Tigers hitting 3-pointers. It was the largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent in Auburn Arena history.
Auburn forward Chuma Okeke tossed in two of those 3-pointers and finished with a double-double on the night. The sophomore had 14 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and four assists. Okeke said it was, “The 3-balls that really got us going.”
The Tigers strength usually comes from the long ball, but the fact the game was played at home had to be a big part of the win. The Auburn Arena has become one of the toughest venues for SEC teams to get a win. Auburn is 24–2 in the Arena since the beginning of last season with the two losses being a one-point game last year to Texas A&M and a two-point game to Kentucky this year.
The win was the fourth game without Wiley and the Tigers didn’t need him to get the job done. But he will be needed when they hit the road again. Hopefully the victory brings back the confidence that Auburn had before Austin went down with the injury.
There’s still a lot of basketball left to play, and with two home games coming up the Tigers could be back in the rankings by the end of next week. And, by that time Austin Wiley should be back in the lineup.
Next up is rival Alabama. The Tigers host the Tide Saturday on ESPN2 with tipoff at 7:00 p.m. CT.