Auburn basketball is bringing some hardware back to the Plains.
Friday night, Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers defeated St. Bonaventure 77-60 in the championship game of the 17th annual Vivid Seats Legends Classic after beating Notre Dame by 24 the day before. The win marked the second time Auburn has won the Legends Classic under Pearl, as the 2019-20 team took down New Mexico and Richmond in the Barclays Center.
“That’s a good win. That’s a good St. Bonaventure team,” Pearl said. “Everybody knows what a great coach Mark Schmidt is… the biggest factor was just they have three guys that had to play the whole game. They just don’t have the same depth that we do.”
Center Johni Broome led the way offensively for the Tigers, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting while corralling five rebounds and has now scored 15 or more points in every game this season. The junior center was also awarded with the MVP award of the event after posting 15 points and six rebounds against Notre Dame.
Auburn used a 48-point first half to create a 20-point lead going into halftime, and that large lead prevented the Bonnies from mounting a comeback despite a few runs to decrease the Tigers’ lead.
The Tigers poured on 48 points in the first half largely due to their red-hot shooting. Auburn connected on 17 of its 31 shots and hit seven 3-pointers while also shooting 7-of-10 from the free-throw line as a team. Broome led the team with 13 points in the first half and also got help from the Tigers’ starting guards. Freshman Aden Holloway and transfer Denver Jones each hit two triples in the first half and had eight points and nine points, respectively.
Auburn also continued its elite passing performances it has had to start the season. The Tigers came into Friday’s game averaging 20 assists per game which was good for 22nd in the country and first in the SEC. In the first half alone, the Tigers recorded 15 assists on 17 made shots, led by three from Holloway and three from K.D. Johnson.
As Auburn held a 12-point lead with one minute left in the first half, the Tigers really seized momentum with an 8-0 that included two 3-pointers and a flashy dunk. Chad Baker-Mazara hit a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left after an offensive rebound from Jaylin Williams and just over 20 seconds later, Williams took it upon himself to create a highlight play – recording a steal before finding himself all alone at the other end of the court for a windmill dunk in an NBA arena.
Jones capped the first half with a fast break 3-pointer to stretch Auburn’s lead to 20 that “just gave us energy going into halftime with momentum,” according to Broome.
Auburn cooled down in the second half with just 29 points while shooting 38.1% from the field and just 1-for-10 on 3-pointers. Pearl admitted that “I may have slowed it down a little bit myself too much,” however, the Tigers preserved their lead with some solid free-throw shooting.
Auburn shot 12-for-17 from the line in the second half – spearheaded by center Dylan Cardwell who was a perfect 6-for-6. Prior to Friday’s game, Cardwell has had struggles at the free-throw line, shooting just 44% over his Auburn career.
“I thought one of the great responses tonight was when Johni had missed some free throws, we played the last four minutes with Dylan Cardwell in there,” Pearl said. “And Dylan made all of his free throws. Dylan’s a career 40-percent free-throw shooter. He went 6-for-6 tonight. I know Dylan’s shooting coach is smiling somewhere and look at the work Dylan has done.”
While the Bonnies scored more points in the second half than the first, Auburn’s defense still held them to 37.9% shooting from the field and 14.3% from three. The Tigers surrendered just 32 points in the second half, and overall, forced the Bonnies to a field goal percentage under 40% and just three makes from the three-point line – a vast difference from the first game of the season in which Auburn allowed Baylor to score 54 second-half points while shooting 43.3% from the field and hitting nine 3-pointers.
“Made a lot of progress the last two weeks, probably since the second half against Baylor, and that probably stuck sticks in our craw a little bit still, and our guys recognize that what we do can work pretty well with a great effort and energy. And they flew around and had fun,” Pearl said.
With the win, Auburn improved to 3-1 this season and comes back home for a contest against Alabama A&M on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The game tips off at 7 p.m. CST and will be televised on SEC Network+.
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Jacob Waters is a senior majoring in journalism. From Leeds, Alabama, he started with The Plainsman in August, 2021.