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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn offense returns to form in rout of Indiana

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 09 - Auburn's Aden Holloway (1) during the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Indiana Hoosiers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023.

Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 09 - Auburn's Aden Holloway (1) during the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Indiana Hoosiers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. Photo by Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers

What a difference a week made for Auburn. After a season-worst shooting performance against Appalachian State on Sunday afternoon, the Tigers offense dominated the majority of the game in a 104-76 win over Indiana. The win was the Tigers’ first over the Hoosiers in their second attempt.

“It’s a great victory over a historic program,” said head coach Bruce Pearl. “We played really well. As you look up and down our roster, virtually every player had a big day.”

This was not the first time Pearl’s program routed a Big Ten opponent in the Hoopsgiving event. In 2021, the Tigers earned a 99-68 win over Nebraska – that Auburn team won the SEC regular-season title.

The Tigers were down 22-10 with 12:54 to play in the first half. From then until the half’s end, however, it was all Auburn, as the Tigers outscored the Hoosiers 42-12 in that span. At the half, it was 52-34 Tigers. 

The second half was not much different offensively as the Tigers continued their hot shooting, scoring 52 more. In the end, the Tigers reached the 100-point mark for the first time since doing so against Alabama on Feb. 1, 2022. 

A freshman and a veteran leader led the Tigers. Both Aden Holloway and Jaylin Williams scored 24 points. It surpassed the career-high of Holloway’s young career and equaled the career-best of Williams’ five-year tenure.

Part of Holloway’s success was the return of the 3-pointer. Prior to the game against the Hoosiers, Holloway had not made a 3-pointer since Nov. 21 against Alabama A&M. In this game, however, the freshman point guard was 5-for-8 from behind the arc.

“(Pearl) just told me don’t focus on nothing but just giving effort and energy the whole game,” Holloway said. “Just being a freshman it’s your job to come with extra energy every night…”

Williams was 8-of-14 from the field, adding six points from the foul line. The fifth-year senior had a team-best plus/minus of plus-32. Williams also led the Tigers with seven assists.

Despite two players breaking 20 points, the Tigers utilized a balanced attack as six players reached double figures. In addition to Holloway and Williams, K.D. Johnson, Denver Jones, Chad Baker-Mazara and Tre Donaldson all scored 10 points or more.

The trip to Atlanta was a homecoming for several Auburn players, Johnson included.

“It was very fun,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of family and friends who came …”

The Tigers’ shooting performance was a far cry from the struggles that plagued them against Appalachian State. The Tigers were 35-of-72, or 48.6%, from the field. The Tigers made 14 3-pointers, shooting 48.3% from behind the arc. This came just one game after the Tigers were 3-of-27 shooting the 3-pointer.

Auburn also saw much greater success from the free-throw line. The Tigers, who went 9-for-19 on free throws against Appalachian State, were 20-of-23 on foul shots against the Hoosiers. Williams was the only Auburn player to miss a free throw, as he missed three, but he also made more free throws than any other Tiger.

“While we did not shoot the ball well against (Appalachian) State or Virginia Tech, we think we’re an improved shooting team,” Pearl said. “Our job this week was just to continue to give the guys confidence. As long as you take good shots, that’s the most important thing.”

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In addition, Auburn successfully took care of the basketball, turning the ball over just three times. Indiana only got two points off Auburn’s minimal number of turnovers. The three Auburn turnovers came against 25 assists for the Tigers.

“25 assists, three turnovers. That was beautiful basketball,” Pearl said. “And one of the turnovers was that last shot clock violation, which meant I thought there were times I thought we played fast and beat them down the floor and then they took care of the ball.”

After making four 3-pointers within the first four minutes of the game, Indiana cooled down from behind the arc, making just two more for the remainder of the game. The Hoosiers finished 6-of-17 from 3-point range. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 12 times, resulting in 15 Auburn points.

Against the vaunted frontcourt of Indiana, Auburn got 39 rebounds to the Hoosiers’ 35. Auburn had 11 offensive boards and 11 second-chance points. Indiana had eight second-chance points on eight offensive rebounds.

The Tigers return to action Wednesday night, with another neutral-site game against UNC Asheville. Tipoff from Huntsville, Alabama’s Von Braun Center will be at 7 p.m. CST and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Matthew Wallace | Assistant Sports Editor

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

Twitter: @mattwallaceAU

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