Observations: Auburn 70, George Mason 52
Bruce Pearl's Tigers told anyone who would listen this preseason that they'd rely on defense and depth. And they flexed both from the opening tip of the season.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Athletics)
All preseason, this Auburn basketball team constantly talked about how it was going to be built on its defense and its depth.
Less than five minutes into the regular season, the Tigers backed up all that talk — and threw some more of it at the George Mason bench.
When George Mason head coach Kim English burned a timeout just 4:32 into the game Monday night, Auburn was already up 13-2. Auburn had more baskets (six) than George Mason had shot attempts (five) and raced out to a +6 edge on the boards. George Mason had as many turnovers as points. The Jungle was already in midseason form.
Oh, and Auburn had already used nine of its players and was about to send in the 10th one.
“We got that spark off the bench,” said K.D. Johnson, who had a layup, a steal and an assist in a 22-second span that led to English’s early timeout. “I don’t think we could be stopped. … Most teams don’t have that. So, you know, they get tired early — and that's what George Mason kind of did. We started a new, fresh five and got on them early and pushed the pace.”
The early 11-point lead soon grew into a 17-point lead. It got as high as 18 before a late flurry from George Mason before halftime, one that put a damper on an impressive first half.
That would be the only rough stretch of the game from Auburn, though, as it led by double digits for all but four minutes of the second half. The Tigers cruised to a 70-52 victory, giving them their 39th straight non-conference home win and moving their record in home openers under Bruce Pearl to 9-0.
“It’s a good win tonight,” Pearl said. “George Mason’s a good team. To hold them to 52 points, 37 or 38% from the field, to turn them over 19 times, nine assists, 19 turnovers, with a veteran team — it’s good. Our defense was really good.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 18-point opening night win, along with the rotation charts, nerd stats and the quote of the night.
Suffocating defense from the start
Last season, George Mason ranked No. 50 nationally in effective field goal percentage at 53.0%. They were a top-75 team in both 3-point and 2-point shooting. English’s Patriots started five seniors, including their top two scorers from a season ago and a new, well-traveled transfer.
At the 3:50 mark of the first half, George Mason had gone 5-22 from the field and 0-8 from deep. Auburn had already forced 10 turnovers. Those top two scorers were at a combined three points.
“We jumped out on them early in the game, had a couple of blocked shots,” center Johni Broome said. “K.D. came in, had a couple steals. The Jungle was rocking. … We just to set the tone early and stayed on them the whole game.”