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A spirit that is not afraid

Season-best shooting night propels No. 13 Auburn past Bradley

The shooting struggles that plagued Auburn during the season’s first two weeks seemed like a distant memory on Tuesday night, as the No. 13 Tigers made eight 3-pointers and shot a season-high 56.4% from the field in an 85-64 win over the Bradley Braves in the semifinals of the Cancun Challenge.

“I thought we shot it well,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “We got good looks. We took care of the ball.”

Auburn utilized a balanced scoring attack to overcome the short-handed Braves. Five separate Tigers reached double digits in scoring, led by Wendell Green Jr. and Johni Broome’s 14 points.

“Every day we come into practice and our facility and our motto is strength in numbers,” Broome said. “Our 11 is better than their seven or eight…Just being able to count on the guy next to you is very, very important.”

Auburn’s points were split nearly evenly between the starters and the bench. 44 points were scored by starters, with 41 bench points for the Tigers.

“Our bench was really good,” Pearl said. “Our starters started well. I thought coach Prewett and coach Flanigan did an outstanding job with the preparation.”

Broome and Jaylin Williams provided early sparks for the Tigers. Williams made a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s first three minutes, setting the tone for the shooting success to come. 

Williams finished with 11 points after a 14-point performance on Friday night, the first time he has scored in double digits in consecutive games since doing so in five straight games — the last four games of the 2020-21 season and the first game of the 2021-22 season.

Broome, who missed Friday’s game against Texas Southern due to injury, scored four of Auburn’s first seven points in his first game action in a week.

“It was good to be back,” Broome said. “I got off to a fast start, my teammates put me in a position to make plays and that’s what I did to get the quick start.”

The Tigers used early success in both halves to pull away from the Braves. Auburn got off to a 12-2 start in the first half and began the second half with a 7-0 run.

“We started very well both halves,” Pearl said. “We started plus-10 and plus-seven. That’s a 17-point margin.”

Despite coming into Tuesday’s contest converting just 25% of its 3-point attempts, ranking among the nation’s worst, Auburn converted a season-best 47.1% of its 3-pointers — making eight of its 17 attempts. Percentage-wise, it was Auburn's best 3-point performance since last season's Vanderbilt game, 12 games ago, when the Tigers hit 3-pointers at a rate of 50%.

In addition to its newfound success behind the arc, Auburn maintained its longstanding presence inside, scoring a season-high 46 points in the paint — its most in 13 games, when the Tigers scored 48 against Texas A&M last season. 

The win brought Auburn’s record to 5-0 — only the second time in Pearl’s tenure, and first since the 2019-20 season, that the Tigers have won their first five games.

Auburn will conclude its trip to Cancun on Wednesday night when the Tigers play for the championship of the Cancun Challenge. Tip-off for Wednesday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST and will be nationally televised by CBS Sports Network.

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Matthew Wallace | Sports Reporter

Matthew is a junior from Huntsville, Alabama majoring in journalism. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2021.

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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