Observations: Auburn 104, Indiana 76
Despite an early 12-point deficit, the Tigers punched back and never stopped swinging on their way to a dominant victory in Atlanta.
SG K.D. Johnson (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
ATLANTA — Last Sunday, when Auburn fell behind to Appalachian State in front of a loud and rowdy student section, Bruce Pearl said some of his players got rattled.
Everything was in place for a repeat of that six days later in Atlanta, where Indiana fans matched Auburn in number and volume at the Holiday Hoopsgiving.
In less than two minutes of game time, Indiana led Auburn by six. A 7-0 run a couple of minutes later pushed that advantage to double-digits. Then a 6-0 run a few minutes after that put the Hoosiers up by a dozen before the second media timeout.
“That will shake your cage a little bit,” Pearl said Saturday.
Indiana’s early surge felt somewhat artificial. The Hoosiers shoot and make 3-pointers at among the lowest rates in the entire country, going 3-9 in each of their two previous victories in Big Ten play. Yet they hit four of their first five triples, matching a season-high in less than four minutes of game time.
“Indiana came ready,” Pearl said. “They knew we were going to double down on their bigs, and they were already inside out. They knocked down shots.
“That's not who they are.”
But the Tigers knew exactly who they were. They knew they had an advantage in depth and backcourt production against the thinner and more post-centric Hoosiers.
It started with a 3-pointer from Jaylin Williams, who has been Pearl’s go-to “big guard” at the 4 for years now. It continued with Denver Jones scoring nine points in less than four minutes, getting the offensive breakout that he’d been waiting to have.
And it reached a whole new level when Atlanta native K.D. Johnson made energetic play after energetic play, matching Jones’ surge with nine points in less than four minutes.
“I mean, it's basketball,” Johnson said. “They're gonna make shots early. You can't win the game in the first half. That didn't rattle us at all. We've been through that and been down. We just stuck together and fought until we came back.”
After Johnson’s roommate and fellow bench lightning bolt Chad Baker-Mazara scored on back-to-back trips, Johnson drove his way to yet another bucket and punctuated by screaming “THIS IS MY CITY!”
From the Williams triple to that Johnson layup, Auburn had gone from down 12 to up by 15 in less than 10 minutes of game time.
After that, it was virtually all Auburn. The Tigers led by 18 at halftime, only saw their advantage shrink to 11 in the second half and were up by as many as 30.
The Tigers had 25 assists to just three turnovers — one of them coming on a run-out-the-clock situation at the end — to tie a program record in the latter department. Six Tigers scored in double figures. Williams and Aden Holloway both had 24.
“We’ve got 10 starters, so everybody is ready to play at any given moment,” Holloway said. “You could see that tonight.”
Together, Auburn had its first 100-point outing since February 2022 and a 28-point win over one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball. An NCAA Tournament-like crowd went from evenly split to almost all orange and blue in the final minutes.
“Indiana's used to that,” Pearl said. “The Hoosiers, that's what they get. That's what they get when they go everywhere. That was special for us today.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 104-76 victory over Indiana in the Holiday Hoopsgiving, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Day.
(Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
The defense set the tone for a runaway victory
Yes, even though Auburn scored more than 100 points and had one of the most offensively efficient games you’re going to find anywhere by slashing 49/48/87 as a team, we’re starting this breakdown with the defense.
Auburn’s defensive game plan was a sound one: Make life as difficult as possible on the Indiana frontcourt of center Kel’el Ware and power forward Malik Reneau. And the Tigers didn’t do it in a totally conventional way, either.