Observations: Auburn 82, Alabama State 62
Two seniors joined the 1,000-Point Club as the Tigers notched another victory — but still felt like they could've done better in this tune-up.
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Everyone in attendance knew Auburn basketball’s home game Friday night was not like the one five days earlier.
On Sunday, Auburn maxed out the atmosphere for a showdown with a star-studded USC team featuring several big names with NBA ties. The football team used it as a major recruiting opportunity before a successful Early Signing Period. It was the toughest ticket of the non-conference slate, and the Tigers delivered with a comprehensive 16-point win over one of the most talented teams in the country.
On Friday, Auburn knew it wasn’t going to have the same type of crowd. Most of the fans who sat in the usual student section seats weren’t college-aged. With just three days before Christmas and the Tigers playing an Alabama State team that was a 30-point underdog, the feeling in the building just wasn’t the same.
Some of that’s natural. Some of that’s expected.
But Bruce Pearl doesn’t want to use it as an excuse.
“We were affected a little bit by, you know, this wasn’t USC,” Pearl said after Auburn’s 82-62 win over Alabama State. “And I don’t prepare like that. I don’t coach like that. And I don’t like my teams to play like that.”
Auburn had an incredibly slow and sloppy start Friday night, taking more than five minutes to hit its second shot of the game. It also didn’t finish well, going from potentially covering the spread to getting outscored 10-0 in the final 3:13 of action.
What happened in the 30-plus minutes between, though, was much more like the basketball that Auburn has played the majority of this non-conference slate.
The Tigers were balanced in their scoring, rebounding and defending. Seniors Jaylin Williams, Johni Broome and K.D. Johnson all finished in double figures. Williams and Johnson both hit special milestones, too, getting to 1,000 career points in the win.
Those were fun moments for a team that has now won four straight games by 17 or more points. But an abnormally high turnover rate, plus some stretches of cold offense and ineffective defense, took some shine off of what was an easy victory.
“I just feel like (Pearl) wanted us to come out and put up a real show for you guys,” Johnson said. “We tried to come out with the effort and energy like normally. But it’s gonna sink in, this is our last game before break, going to Christmas. We kinda played a little sluggish tonight.
“But we came out with a dub. Can’t be mad at that.”
Here are four Observations, the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night from Auburn basketball’s 82-62 win over Alabama State.
PF Jaylin Williams (Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
Jaylin Williams is on an absolute tear right now
While Johnson needed just five points to get to 1,000 for his career heading into Friday night’s game, Williams needed 17.
But that wasn’t out of the realm of possibility — not at all. For starters, Alabama State is much stronger at guard than it is in the frontcourt, and the matchup was prime for Williams to go to work.
On top of that, he was in the midst of arguably his strongest offensive stretch of what is now a five-year Auburn career. He had scored 46 points across his previous three games, then added a 20-point performance against Alabama State.
“Congratulations to Jaylin Williams,” Pearl said. “What a great game he had on both ends of the floor. He has been tremendously consistent over the last couple weeks.”
Williams went 7-7 on 2-point field goals, including a layup on a behind-the-back fast-break assist from Tre Donaldson to get to 1,000 points. He then followed it up on the next possession with an impressive alley-oop from Donaldson. While he didn’t knock down a 3-pointer Friday, he went a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line.
“I’d just say, it’s about time,” Williams said — with a little smile — when asked about hitting four digits. “Been around a little while. It was special.”
During the last four games, Williams has hit a sizzling 71.4% of his 2-point field goals. Whether it’s throwing down dunks, working for post-up buckets or drilling some tough mid-range jumpers, Williams is a multi-faceted offensive threat.
Throw in a usually strong 3-point shot and a natural playmaking ability for a forward, and you’ve got a complete “big guard” who is truly playing like someone who has been locked into Pearl’s system for years.
When Williams is playing at this level, Auburn is extremely tough to slow down on offense. He works well with any combination of players around him, and his veteran savvy sticks out on the defensive end of the floor.
Personality-wise, Williams is a reluctant star of the Auburn basketball team. On the floor, though, he’s playing more and more like the weapon that Pearl has been raving about for several seasons now. That makes the Tigers even more dangerous ahead of SEC play.
SG K.D. Johnson (Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)