Tigers Take on New Mexico Tonight
Samir Doughty's 19 Points per Game Average Leads the Auburn Tigers (photo: Auburn media file)
Bruce Pearl’s basketball squad will make a second off-campus trip to Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn tonight. The Tigers will take on the New Mexico Lobos. November, especially in the SEC, is dominated by meaningful games, yet even Kentucky’s fan base is locked into the waning moments of football season.
The basketball Tigers have quietly started the season 5–0 and are ranked 19th in the country. The Lobos are 5–1 with their single loss coming to UTEP, a 66–63 road loss. They did bounce back against New Mexico State with a one–point road win in their last outing, which followed a string of wins where they averaged almost 20 points over their competition. However, those opponents weren’t quite up to the level of the Lobos much less the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn has blown out its last two opponents with a 29-point win against Colgate and a 116–70 against CSU Northridge. South Alabama took the Tigers to the brink as Auburn had to hit a put-back layup with 1.6 seconds left to beat the Jags in Mobile. It was a win that the Tigers really needed to gel as a team, and they did it in a way that proved they have grit. In their last possession, the Tigers missed two three pointers before a Samir Doughty rebound and wraparound pass under the basket to freshman Isaac Okoco resulted in a basket.
Auburn had to completely rebuild the starting five after losing studs like Jared Harper, Bryce Brown and Chuma Okeke. Many believed that it would be J’von McCormick leading the way as he was Auburn’s point man with Harper on the bench. Indeed, he has taken over the role of point guard, but unlike Harper, who took over games, he has been relatively quiet on the scoring front, averaging less than nine points a contest.
Some believed the leader could be Austin Wiley as the focus of the offense, and while Wiley has been decent, he is only scoring eight points a game while averaging 17 minutes and nearly nine boards per game. Unfortunately, Wiley also has almost three turnovers per game.
Instead, it has been last season’s part-time starter, Samir Doughty, who has been wrecking opponents. Doughty is averaging almost 19 points a contest. Right behind him is freshman Isaac Okoro, who is kicking in 14 points a game. What’s interesting about the true freshman is that he is averaging more minutes (29) than everyone but Doughty (29.6). Okoru has been an absolute force for the Tigers, especially inside the three-point line where he is hitting 60 percent of his shots. Only Austin Wiley is more successful in the the paint than Okoro.
Danjel Purifoy is having the season everyone expected from him following his lengthy suspension. Purifoy is Auburn’s third leading scorer, putting down 11 points a game.
The Tigers are growing, but the promise of another great season is obvious. Like the blue bloods that experience huge rates of player turnover, the Tigers have won with talent alone as they continue to learn. It’s been ugly at times, especially with the turnovers that seemed to be so rare for last year’s squad. While there are some areas that the Tigers need to show improvement, one of the most obvious is for McCormick to slash to the rim and draw fouls and get to the line. McCormick isn’t getting to the line, and when he does, he isn’t converting. He is one for seven for the year thus far.
What can fans expect from the Lobos?
There is one common opponent, CSUN. The Lobos won 97–70, and Auburn demolished CSUN 116–70, a 19-point win differential. But don’t expect a 19-point win tonight. JaQuan Lyle leads the Lobos’ charge from his point-man spot, throwing down 19 points and six assists per game. He is entering his fourth and final year as a starter for the Lobos by way of Ohio State, and stopping him is the key to a win.
Lyle is going to launch at least four long balls per game, and he is hitting over 50 per cent of those, which is something the Tigers cannot allow him to do. His 1–6 performance against NMSU was the reason for the Lobos’ lone loss. Expect Lyle to be on the floor as much as 38 minutes, however, hee will also turn over the ball a good bit. This should allow Auburn to get transition points.
Auburn is an eight-point favorite tonight, and the over/under is at 156. The Tigers are giving up around 70 points a game; the Lobos have scored season lows in their last two contests after scoring at least 90 through their first three games. Meanwhile, Auburn has seen a scoring uptick the last two games. Expect Auburn to beat the spread tonight. Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN News.