Observations: Israel National Team 95, Auburn 86
Bruce Pearl's Tigers fell short in their tour finale against a team of well-respected pros, but there were still plenty of positives from the tough game in Tel Aviv.
There’s no such thing as a good loss. You won’t ever hear a competitor — a player or a coach — talk about being satisfied in defeat, especially if they have won at the level that Auburn basketball has under Bruce Pearl.
But if such a thing existed, a single-digit loss to a senior national team made up of seasoned professionals on the other side of the world three months before the start of your real season would probably qualify.
The Israel national team has played three games together this summer and is preparing for two more FIBA World Cup qualifiers at the end of August and then Eurobasket in September. Israel also got its best player, former top-10 draft pick and two-year NBA player Deni Avdija to suit up for his country for the first time in two years.
The Israelis, playing in front of a vocal home crowd, looked like a well-oiled machine on offense from the beginning with its ball movement and ability to create tons of open looks. They also benefited from a favorable whistle, going to the free-throw line 46 times Monday.
And Auburn, a college team that was playing in just its third game together and its first one with this level of competition, fought evenly for the entire first half and never let it get out of hand in the second half — even pulling within a single possession in the fourth quarter. The Tigers kept their evened-out tour format, too, utilizing giant, hockey-like substitution patterns that didn’t resemble a normal rotation.
Pearl and his team learned a lot about themselves as they look to finish up their overseas trip with one more day in Tel Aviv on Tuesday before flying back to the Plains on Wednesday. Then they’ll attack the second half of the offseason with increased conditioning, chemistry and challenges for improvement.
“It was fun just to go out there and compete against some pros, some older guys,” Wendell Green Jr. said. “We went out there and played hard. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we’ll take it and work in the fall leading up to November. It was a great experience for us.”
A perfect 3-0 record in Israel would have made for the perfect basketball trip. Still, it was mission accomplished for a Tigers team that grew a lot on and off the floor ahead of their SEC title defense.
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s finale in Israel, along with the full box score and the quote of the game from Pearl.