No. 24 Auburn takes down Davidson in Veterans Classic
SOURCE: AUBURN ATHLETICS
A fast start helped No. 24 Auburn jump out to a 12-2 lead, and the Tigers never relinquished that advantage, leading wire-to-wire to beat Davidson, 76-66, in the first game of the 2019 Veterans Classic on Friday night.
“I thought our kids played really hard,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I thought we had an excellent defensive game plan. It was an honor to coach against Bob (McKillop). His stuff is hard to guard, and I thought our kids did a really good job locking in on their personnel.
“It was a really balanced effort. We got enough from the 3, got to the foul line enough, and we did a pretty good job on the boards. It was just real solid for a young team playing against a very experienced Davidson team.”
Anfernee McLemore didn’t start Friday night, but the senior big man stepped up off the bench in the final three minutes to help Auburn preserve the victory.
Up six with three minutes to go, McLemore blocked a shot that led to a lay-up from J’Von McCormick on the other end. Then, after taking a charge on the defensive end, McLemore threw down an alley-oop dunk from McCormick to extend the lead to 10. He added another basket inside in the final 40 seconds to seal the victory.
“He saved his best for the last,” Pearl said. “He’s such a tough matchup because he can do things inside and out. He was fearless. Our guys did a good job of finding him. We had a couple key baskets late where he was able to score in traffic. He gives us a great dimension, a great rim protector. He had monster athletic blocks.”
McLemore finished with 12 points, five rebounds and a team-high three blocks. He was one of five Auburn players to score in double figures in what was a balanced attack from the Tigers.
Freshman Isaac Okoro led the way with 16 points on 5 of 7 shooting. Okoro played a major role in Auburn’s fast start as he knocked down two 3-point shots in the first five minutes and had 11 points at the eight-minute mark in the first half. He has now scored in double figures in each of his first two collegiate games.
“I knew once my first shot went down that it was going to be a pretty good game for me,” Okoro said. “That 3-pointer really gave me confidence for the whole game. Everybody hitting their shots to start the game really gave us a boost in the start.”
Okoro, along with J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty, also clamped down the defensive end, holding Davidson’s starting backcourt to a combined 13 points. Auburn is the first team to hold both Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson under 10 points in the same game in their career.
“I said earlier in the season I thought that J’Von, Samir and Isaac could be a really strong defensive backcourt, and they showed that obviously tonight,” Pearl said.
On the offensive end, McCormick scored 10 points and finished with five assists and no turnovers. Doughty chipped in 11 points – all coming in the second half. And fellow senior Danjel Purifoy also reached double figures with 14 points to go along with six rebounds.
The senior trio combined to score the first 12 points of the second half for Auburn, who started the half on a 12-1 run after leading 37-35 at the intermission.
“We were up two at the half, and we wanted to keep it on their neck the whole game,” Purifoy said. “That’s what we did. My teammates fed me the ball when I was open, and I shot it. When I made the first one, the next two went down also. I just kept shooting the ball.”
The Tigers (2-0) return to the court Tuesday night when they travel to South Alabama in their first true road game of the season. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be streamed live on ESPN+.