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A spirit that is not afraid

Second-half effort propels Tigers past Georgia State

Flanigan (#22) dunks against GSU at Neville Arena on December 14th 2022
Flanigan (#22) dunks against GSU at Neville Arena on December 14th 2022

It may not have been the kind of win it likes to see, but Auburn's halftime adjustments were enough to bring success when it was needed.

The Tigers took down Georgia State 72-64 on Wednesday night, their last non-conference game in Neville Arena before SEC play begins after Christmas. 

Helping out on the scoreboard most was Jaylin Williams, who finished his night with 20 points and eight rebounds, just the third time in his career to hit 20 points in a game. He felt that difference came most from the time he was able to spend in the gym.

"Really just having confidence, and then trusting your teammates to be there for you. Like, if you're having a bad night, they're still gonna be there for you," Williams said. "Having that, just knowing 'Alright, now I gotta have y'all back,' but I'm not missing as many shots. Just like, finish around the rim and stuff like that. It makes it easier when everyone has confidence."

The switch was flipped at halftime. The Tigers went into the locker room shooting 31.8% from the field, a number that improved to 66.7% in the final frame of play. Williams raised his production, with 13 of his points coming after the half.

Freshman Tre Donaldson, a player who saw 18 minutes after playing just three in the Tigers' last three games, pointed to a pickup on defense as something that was able to wake up the offense. Donaldson had just six points but his energy helped the Tigers go on a run midway through the second half that helped solidify the win.

"Just knowing our identity. Our identity is attacking the basket. We've got guys like Jaylin that have amazing touch around the rim. Johni (Broome) is, obviously, great around the rim. Just getting back to Auburn basketball," Donaldson said. "The same thing defensively. Defensively, that's our identity. Our identity is playing defense and that's what's going to lead us to basketball games. Once we play defense, it leads to offense."

The Tigers continue to lead the nation in blocked shots per game, adding 11 to tie their season high via blocks from Williams (3), Broome (4), Dylan Cardwell (2), Allen Flanigan (1) and Chris Moore (1). Broome's night ended with 13 points, four blocks and seven rebounds.

Wendell Green Jr. followed Williams' lead with 17 points of his own, including going 11-of-17 from the free throw line. Green Jr. exited the game with under a minute remaining after going down during a defensive play. He returned briefly to the bench before training staff took him into the locker room as time expired.

Pearl said that the junior had "turned his ankle" and would be evaluated, so the coach had no announcement as to Green Jr.'s status but estimated that he might "be out a couple days."

K.D. Johnson did not play against Georgia State. Pearl said he would be available for the team's games over the weekend. 

Next, the Tigers head west, first for a game against USC on Dec. 18 before then heading north to play Washington on Dec. 21, their final two games before conference play begins.

Callie Stanford | Sports Editor

Callie Stanford, junior in communications, is the sports editor at the Auburn Plainsman. Currently a junior, she has been with The Plainsman since January 2021.

Twitter: @Stanford1Callie

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