Auburn only had one problem through its first two games of the season: the ball wasn't going through the hoop, but Zep Jasper and Wendell Green Jr. splashed its first two 3-pointers of the night, and Auburn's net swished all night long in the 89-65 clubbing of Winthrop.
After missing its next eight 3s after the first two, Auburn nailed two more to close out the half, but the seven-point lead at halftime doesn't serve the Tigers' dominance on Tuesday night justice. They came out with a vengeance in the second half, shooting 52.8% and getting continued dominance from starters Johni Broome and Green Jr. They each scored 10 points in the second half, following an already-dominant first half with a fiery put-away half.
Auburn shot notably better than its games last week, with a final 46.6% opposed to its 40.4% and 33.8% performances from the floor in its first two games. In fact, its 9-for-23 from beyond the arch was as many deep makes as it had in its first two games combined in 27 less attempts.
Green Jr., who played a major role off the bench last season, is now averaging 17.3 points per game on the season after 16 points tonight on 4-for-6 on 3-pointers.
“Wendell Green was the best player on the floor tonight,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “He did whatever he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it. That was fun to watch.”
While the Tigers continued to convert from all over the floor, Broome made his presence felt all night. He compiled his first double-double of the season not long after halftime, and he ended with 18 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and two steals after a quiet night versus USF. He and Green Jr. racked up 28 points, and the Tiger bench produced once again with 39 points, led by Yohan Traore with 11 – the 5-star freshman's first double-digit scoring game.
Not to mention, the Tigers got one man deeper with the addition of guard Chance Westry, who missed the whole fall as well as the Tigers' first two games of the season. He only scored five points, but in 17 minutes, he changed the outlook of the entire team. No one played more than 23 minutes, and the guards in particular got more rest than the first two games.
Green Jr. played seven less minutes (20) than Friday night, and Zep Jasper played five less (19).
“We put him in a very tough spot tonight playing three positions,” Pearl said. “It was great to have him out there. He can do a lot with or without the ball. He’s a good player.”
Auburn's effort has been there all along with steals and rebounds, but it came together as a team on Tuesday. Leading to an outstanding shooting night, the team moved the ball around efficiently with 17 assists, led by Green with five.
The big bodies of the Tigers didn't change, either. The team compiled 11 blocks, held the rebound advantage over Winthrop 53-33 and outscored it in the paint 50-32. But Auburn was faster, too. It led in fast break points, 17-3, and forced 11 turnovers while only turning it over eight times.
Along with shots falling, Auburn took advantage of its trips to the free-throw line, knocking down 12-of-20 easy points. This was a major improvement, as the Tigers left 23-of-61 free points unsecured in the two opening games.
From depth to simply making shots, Auburn looked close to full strength in the opening contest of next week's Cancun challenge in the win over Winthrop, who is in the opposite bracket of the challenge from Auburn. At 3-0 with 41 straight conference wins, No. 13 Auburn will return to Neville Arena Friday for a non-tournament regular-season matchup with Texas Southern.
“It will be another interesting preparation," Pearl said. "Five games in 12 days. We’ve got to learn from the film and we’ve got to learn from the experience.”
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Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.