BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — When J’Von McCormick got off Auburn’s team bus to enter Legacy Arena in Birmingham on Saturday, the senior anticipated playing a major role in his team’s matchup with Saint Louis.
He enters every game as such, he said, with the mindset that there should be no drop-off at the point guard position after three-year stater Jared Harper departed last season.
McCormick was the key to Auburn's offensive success Saturday, scoring a career-high 20 points as the Tigers remained undefeated with a 67-61 win over Saint Louis in Legacy Arena.
The Tigers were slow to get on the board, missing on each of their first five shots in the contest; however, McCormick broke the streak by hitting on back-to-back 3-pointer. The senior did not slow down from there.
“We knew they were going to come out more aggressive so we got out to a slow start and we picked it up on defense” McCormick said.
By the end of the first half, the senior had recorded 12 points, six rebounds and one block, leading his team in all three categories.
The guard had anticipated the need for him to step up into his role, as well the need for Auburn's defense to bring their A-game.
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“We knew coming into the game I would need to be more aggressive, offensively and defensively ... I just tried to be more aggressive” McCormick said.
McCormick’s play did not go unnoticed by his teammates, nor was it left unacknowledged by his head coach.
“J’Von, on both ends of the floor, was incredible," head coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Tigers and Billikens spent a large portion of time trading baskets, or at least taking turns on offense and turning the ball over.
According Pearl, Saint Louis was effective in exploiting the Tigers’ weaknesses, and forced his squad into a poorly executed game.
“That was an ugly basketball game ... they didn’t let us do the things that we like to do," Pearl said.
The second half proved to be more efficient for the orange and blue. freshman Isaac Okoro found a way to post 10 points, Austin Wiley came down with six rebounds and McCormick continued his first half play by posting eight points with five assists.
Once the Tigers gained control of the lead in the second half, the momentum stayed with them. Despite the largest lead having only been 14, the Auburn defense was able to hold Saint Louis down when it counted. Not to mention, the Billikens’ poor free throw shooting hindered the team’s ability to catch up.
Bruce Pearl and company now sit at 9-0, Auburn’s best start since 1998. The Tigers will return to the Plains to host NC State on Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. CST.
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