Auburn jumped out to a hot start on Saturday morning, shooting 75% from the field in the first half. The strong first half paved the way for Auburn’s fifth win of the season, as it routed Troy 77-41 inside Auburn Arena.
“That’s probably as good a first half as I can remember,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “We were firing on all cylinders, every offensive possession was clean, and we looked like we knew what we were doing.”
From the opening tip, the Tigers controlled the game in every aspect. Allen Flanigan got the Tigers on the board first with a shot from deep and Jaylin Williams followed up with a 3-pointer of his own to give Auburn an early 6-0 lead.
The quick 6-0 run was only a sneak-peek as to what kind of half Auburn had in store. The Tigers moved the ball around, finishing with 12 assists in the first half on its way to scoring 43 points in the first 10 minutes.
It wasn’t just one player either. Out of the 11 players that appeared in the first half for Auburn, 10 found themselves scoring in the half.
Leading the team in the first half was Flanigan with 10 points, two rebounds and three assists. He finished the game with a team-leading 14 points.
Auburn found itself on long scoring runs multiple times in the first half, briefly interrupted by a Troy basket here and there. After the Trojans made their first shot from the field to make it 8-3, the Tigers answered with a 13-0 run, highlighted by a JT Thor dunk and a Justin Powell 3-pointer.
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A 3-point shot from Troy’s Nick Stampley ended the 13-0 run before Auburn began another run. Over the next 8:03, the Tigers outscored Troy 20-0, pushing its lead to 41-6 with 1:54 remaining in the first half.
Defensively, the Tigers turned out their best performance all season in the first half. It took the Trojans over 18 minutes to reach double digits, at which point they trailed Auburn by 31. In turn, the defense transferred to offensive success, as the Tigers scored 24 points off of 18 Troy turnovers in the game.
Troy was 4-of-17 from the field in the first half. Zay Williams, the team's leading scorer coming into the game, was held without a basket. All four of Williams’ points came from the free-throw line.
“He was the focus on a lot of what we did,” Pearl said. “I thought that [Jaylin] Williams, Thor and Javon Franklin did a really nice job defensively against one of their best players.”
Not only did the Tigers hold Troy to just 10 first-half points, but they also did so by not fouling. Troy was held to three free-throw attempts in the first half and Auburn held a 43-10 lead at halftime.
“I thought that the first half, we just didn’t let them run their stuff,” Pearl said. “We defended without fouling, I thought that was really key. They do a great job getting to the foul line, and I thought that it was important that we were able to defend them without sending them to the foul line too much.”
Troy started finding the basket in the second half and opened on a 9-0 scoring run before Auburn got its first points off a Dylan Cardwell free throw. Cardwell played 21 minutes, a career-high, and scored a career-high eight points in the win.
“My teammates are finally finding me,” Cardwell said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be out there with my brothers and teammates and just go out there and contribute to the team.”
Cardwell attended McEachern High School, the same as teammate Sharife Cooper and former Tiger Isaac Okoro. Cardwell was unable to play his senior season because of transfer rules. Now a freshman at Auburn, Cardwell is finding himself back on the court.
“It’s amazing to just be back out there again and I missed it a whole lot,” Cardwell said. “I’m just so glad to be out here, I love basketball. I just love seeing the ball go through the basket, I love being on the court and I’m grateful to be back on the court.”
Walk-ons Lior Berman and Chandler Leopard found time on the court and scored their first career-points late in the second half. The duo made back-to-back 3-point shots, which were greeted by cheers throughout Auburn Arena.
The 36-point victory is the largest margin of victory for Auburn since Nov. 15, 2019, when the Tigers defeated CSU Northridge by 46.
Auburn now turns its attention to its non-conference finale on Tuesday against Appalachian State inside Auburn Arena. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CST and will air on SEC Network.
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