Observations: Auburn 87, Alabama-Huntsville 69
Jaylin Williams and Allen Flanigan stood out, the Tigers flexed their depth, and Bruce Pearl learned a lot about what his team needs to work on early this season.
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
Bruce Pearl said anyone inside Neville Arena on Wednesday night could look out there and say to themselves, “Wow, there’s a lot of new guys out there.”
The un-televised exhibition matchup against Division II opponent Alabama-Huntsville was a first home game in front of a home crowd for newcomers Yohan Traore, Johni Broome and Tre Donaldson.
Fans also wanted to see the returning backcourt of former transfers — Wendell Green Jr., K.D. Johnson and Zep Jasper — adjust to new roles and new responsibilities. The same went for Chris Moore and Dylan Cardwell, who were new starters for the first times in their careers.
But, for all the newness out there, the night was headlined by two of the oldest guys on the team.
Jaylin Williams had one of his best nights as a Tiger against any opponent, scoring 16 points on a perfect 6-6 from the floor and 3-3 from the free-throw line. And Allen Flanigan looked more like his old self with a well-rounded line of 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“Thought Allen and Jaylin played terrific,” Pearl said after Auburn’s 87-69 win over UAH. “They were really, really good. One of the things I talked about with our guys was just take advantage of the opportunity. We have a lot of guys that are having a lot of opportunities this year. So, it's time now for Dylan. Right? It's time for Chris. It's time for some of the guys that were, you know, in the shadows, to take advantage.
“Obviously Jaylin Williams did. Obviously Al did.”
Williams and Flanigan weren’t the only two to have positive performances in the exhibition win. Everyone got involved for the Tigers, who put up 87 points while shooting just 22.2% from deep and 67.6% from the free-throw line.
Auburn also had stretches of defensive dominance, forcing 25 turnovers and holding a trigger-happy D-II team to less than 30% from 3-point range. UAH hit some shots after halftime to hang around, but they never really threatened.
Like any exhibition, there’s a lot for the Tigers to work on ahead of their real season opener. But Pearl couldn’t have asked for a better tune-up from an in-state opponent before the games start counting.
“They gave us a good, competitive game,” Pearl said. “We knew they would. Our focus is that we have four games before we go to Cancun. We've got to continue to see if we can get better. We have to play a lot better to beat George Mason on Monday.”
Here are five Observations from Auburn’s exhibition win, along with the Rotation Chart, some Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.
The seniors set the tone for the season
Pearl said he changed the starting lineup a little bit Wednesday night, “just to give some other guys a chance to hear their name called” while “still trying different combinations.” He went with a starting five of Green-Jasper-Moore-Traore-Cardwell, meaning that Williams and Flanigan both had their big nights off the bench.
Flanigan still played a team-high 23 minutes, and for good reason. He quickly made his mark on the game, coming up with a two steals, three rebounds and a pure corner 3-pointer within his first three minutes and change. When he came back in for his second stint, Flanigan had two nice assists on either side of a rim-smashing baseline dunk.
“Al was so productive when he was out there,” Pearl said. “You know, he's able to get downhill and score through contact. He didn't hesitate at all with his jump shot. Was effective defensively. He was one of our top rebounders. Had a really good assist-turnover ratio, 4 and 2. That was a really, really good game for him.”