Tigers Win In Mike Slive Invitational, NC State Up Next
Auburn guard J'Von McCormick had a breakout game against St. Louis (photo: Todd Van Ernst/Auburn media file)
The St. Louis Billikens came out swinging in Birmingham, taking a 9–0 lead against Bruce Pearl’s undefeated squad. The Tigers fought back and made it a hotly contested game. Although St. Louis outplayed Auburn for much of that first half, the Bilkekens could not find the bottom of the net from the foul line. Saturday was a historically bad evening for St. Louis, which ended the night shooting 8–19 from the line, something that simply cannot be done when playing a Top 25 team like Auburn.
Auburn opened up a lead in the second half but did so despite a similar struggle from the line where the Tigers hit just 46 percent of their 28 attempts. The two teams combined for 21–47 free throw shooting and 13–44 from the three-point line. Obviously the Tigers owned the second stat, hitting ten threes with point man J’Von McCormick hitting four of his eight attempts.
McCormick has the unenviable task of replacing Jared Harper as Auburn’s point guard and has, at times, struggled in full-time duty. However, he finally had a breakout performance, taking over the game and leading all scorers with 20 points
Although Auburn bested St Louis 67–62 it wasn’t the scoring that really jumped off the screen, but rather both teams’ overall poor shooting but good offensive rebounding. The Billikens edged out the Tigers with 51 to 47 rebounds. Both teams crashed the offensive glass extremely well with the Billikens edging the Tigers 21–18.
It was certainly an off night for two Auburn starters. Danjel Purifoy and freshman phenom Isaac Okoro combined for just 14 points with Okoro cashing in on 12 of those. It wasn’t his best game, for sure, but that is expected by a freshman starting just his ninth game. However, Purifoy played just 18 minutes, the fewest among the starting five, including Austin Wiley, who consistently plays fewer minutes than anyone.
Wiley shot just 2–11 from the floor and hit 4–8 from the line in a game that saw him being pushed to shoot left-handed hooks. He also led the team in turning the ball over three times. Still, Auburn got yet another win and improved to 9–0, becoming one of the four teams in the country to remain unbeaten.
A preview of NC State after the jump:
Up next is North Carolina State, who handed the Tigers their second loss of the 2018–2019 season in Raleigh. Auburn led just one time, a first half 26–25 lead, before ultimately falling to the Wolfpack 78–71. It was a miscue fest with the teams combining for 47 turnovers, but it was Auburn’s 20 percent from downtown that sunk the Tigers.
The Wolfpack is 8–2 with losses to Georgia Tech and Memphis. The loss to the Jackets was in overtime in the first game of the season. Their last loss to Memphis was by only five points to the 16th-ranked team in the land. Since that time, NC State has reeled off three straight wins with three different players leading the way in scoring.
C.J. Bryce is the Wolfpack’s leader in both scoring and rebounds. He is putting up almost 16 points a game and pulling down 6.5 boards while also dishing out over two assists per game. The guard is hitting over 40 percent of his long distance shots yet he is doing the majority of his work inside the line where he shoots around 55 percent. His partner, Markell Johnson, is dishing out the ball to the tune of six assists per game, but the point man is scoring 13 points a game as well. Auburn will have its hands full with these guards.
Fans can expect a lot of blocked shots this game as the two teams swat a combined 11 per contest. Auburn looks to remain unbeaten, and the home court advantage will be huge. At many schools, winter break saps a lot of the participation, but expect Auburn Arena to be packed and loud as usual.
The ESPN matchup predictor gives the Tigers a huge 71.5 percent chance to win, but this game will likely be a lot closer.
The Wolfpack will try their best to limit Samir Doughty, who is leading Auburn in scoring at over 17 points per game. Doughty has been crashing to the rim extremely well. However, we expect him to start dishing the ball to open men, especially Okoro, who is electric in the paint.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2, Thursday night at 8:00 PM.