June 19, 2024

Balanced scoring effort leads Auburn to home win over USC

It had been 2½ weeks since Auburn last played in front of a home crowd at Neville Arena. The last time the Tigers played at home was Nov. 29 against Virginia Tech, and after three consecutive road or neutral-site games, Auburn finally returned home on Sunday – facing the USC Trojans in front of 9,121 people.

And a welcome return it was as five Auburn players scored in double figures on the Tigers way to a 91-75 win.

It marked the seventh time Auburn has scored 80 or more points in a game this season and the third consecutive game doing so.

Aden Holloway ranked as a top ten freshman in college basketball by On3 -  Sports Illustrated Auburn Tigers News, Analysis and More

Aden Holloway (15), Jaylin Williams (14), Denver Jones (12), Johni Broome (11) and Dylan Cardwell (11) were the five Tigers who reached 10 or more points, and the trio of Williams, Holloway and Cardwell each went on some individual runs to help give Auburn the lead or extend its lead – a lead that Auburn maintained for the final 36 minutes of the game.

Early in the game when the Tigers held a 10-9 lead, Williams hit a 3-pointer to put Auburn up four. The Tigers never looked back. Williams followed his three-point make with a layup, and then Cardwell got on the board for his first points of the game with a pair of dunks as Auburn went up seven.

“On those threes I was just open,” Williams said. “I mean, I gotta make open shots and then in transition, [Pearl] just told me to always be aggressive. Like, if you don’t see your point guard open, just be aggressive and then try to make a play. But if there’s nothing there, be the senior that you are and just be smart with the basketball.”

Auburn continued to stretch its lead over the first half but ended the first half with two 3-pointers  over the final 70 seconds – one from Jones with 1:10 to play and another from Holloway with just a few seconds left to give the Tigers a 49-35 lead heading to the break. Jones also hit a three early in the second half after USC cut the lead to 12.

“I thought Denver Jones hit a big, big three when SC was closing the gap and we got kind of standing around against the zone,” Pearl said. “I thought he had a big three, and that’s Denver’s second really good game in a row.”

Jones was coming off a game in which he scored nine points and collected five rebounds in Huntsville, Alabama, against UNC Asheville and was impressive again – scoring 12 points against USC with six makes from the free-throw line.

Holloway started the second half with a three-point make and put a stamp on Auburn’s big win with another triple in the closing seconds. The 5-star point guard finished the game with 15 points and six assists, both team highs.

Cardwell went on his run midway through the second half and used two dunks and a pair of free throws to grow Auburn’s lead to 23, its highest of the game.

The Georgia native finished the game with a career-high 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Cardwell also went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line to raise his average to 67%. Prior to the start of the 2023-24 season, Cardwell’s best season average from the free-throw line came in his freshman season when he shot at an average of 57.1%.

“That’s probably the best Dylan Cardwell has played on both ends of the floor,” Pearl said. “Those monster dunks, the pivots, the footwork, the physicality, the rim protection, anything he got his hands on he got. He just grabbed everything… when he plays like this, now the next level is a possibility for him. Because he can defend at that level, he can rebound at that level, he’s making his free throws. There’s a place for him.”

USC guard Boogie Ellis, who scored 28 against Auburn last season, had success against the Tigers again with 22 points to his name, and 5-star guard Isaiah Collier had 13 points on efficient shooting. But the Tigers’ explosive offense that shot 48% on field goals, 38% on 3-pointers and 78% on free throws, was enough to outlast the impressive USC duo of Ellis and Collier plus newcomer Bronny James, who played in just his second collegiate game on Sunday against Auburn.

James, the son of NBA star Lebron James, recorded five points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

“Does it get you a little bit more hyped up playing against good players? Yeah, but like, does it matter? No,” Holloway said. “The only thing that matters is getting the win. That’s the whole focus going into it, but of course, it’s gonna get you a little juiced up and ready to play.”

With the win, Auburn improved to 8-2 and has now won three straight games. Next, the Tigers face Alabama State in Neville Arena on Friday, Dec. 22. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST and the game will be broadcasted on SEC Network.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *