Isaac Okoro Hits Game-Winner to Lead Auburn Past South Alabama
SOURCE: AUBURN ATHLETICS
Down one with the clock running under five seconds, freshman Isaac Okoro stepped up and made the game-winning basket to send No. 22 Auburn home with a 70-69 win in front of a sellout crowd at South Alabama on Tuesday night.
The Tigers pulled down two offensive rebounds just to keep the possession alive, and when Okoro got the ball inside from teammate Samir Doughty, he didn’t flinch. He went up strong, drew a foul and still muscled up a shot over two defenders that dropped with 2.9 seconds left.
The freshman immediately jumped up and beat his chest in excitement.
“First off, I want to give credit to Samir and Danjel (Purifoy) for hustling and getting the rebound,” Okoro said. “And to Samir for passing me the ball. When I put the shot up, I just felt good. It had a great touch on it. When it went in, I just felt the energy in the gym.”
On the possession before, it was Okoro who drove down the baseline and threw down a two-handed slam to break the tie and give Auburn a lead. The freshman finished with a team-high 15 points and has now scored in double figures in all three games this season. He also added six rebounds and six assists Tuesday night.
“We had No. 23,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “No. 23 is pretty good. He’s not afraid. He’s productive. Plays the game on both ends of the floor and obviously made a big rebound basket late.”
Okoro was one of four players to score in double figures for the Tigers, who have had four or more players score 10 or more points in every game this season.
Anfernee McLemore and Jamal Johnson both scored 14 points off the bench, leading Auburn to a 32-9 advantage in bench points. McLemore, who knocked down a pair of 3s in the game, played important minutes with Austin Wiley in foul trouble. And Johnson made 4 of 5 shots from beyond the arc on his way to a new career high.
“My teammates were finding me,” Johnson said. “I give all the credit to them. I was just doing the easy part and making the shots. They were doing the hard part in finding me.”
Doughty also finished in double figures with 10 points and recorded his first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds. Doughty is now averaging 13.7 points per game through the team’s first three games.
Doughty’s backcourt mate, J’Von McCormick, chipped in nine points with three 3-pointers. As a team, Auburn made 10 of 24 shots from deep and shot 44 percent from the field in the game.
It was also a big night for freshmen Allen Flanigan and Babatunde Akingbola. Flanigan scored his first bucket at Auburn and finished with four points, and Akingbola made his college debut with two blocked shots and an assist in four minutes.
The road environment was as advertised as the crowd of 10,086 set a Mitchell Center record.
The Tigers (3-0) will return home Friday where they will face Cal State Northridge in Auburn Arena. The game is scheduled to tip at 6 p.m. CT and will be televised on SEC Network.