Observations: Auburn 62, Loyola Chicago 53

Bruce Pearl's Tigers responded in a big way on Thanksgiving, bouncing back on defense and relying on their two new frontcourt stars for a W.

After battling through a two-overtime game that featured 224 combined points Wednesday, Auburn basketball was in prime position for a knee-capping of a game Thursday in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The opponent was Loyola Chicago, a mid-major built on a nightmare factory of a defensive system. The Ramblers don't play fast or rely on blue-chip recruits, but they hit a lot of their shots and retain the defensive DNA that guided the program to a Final Four in 2018 and a Sweet 16 just eight months ago.

“Loyola's a really good team,” Bruce Pearl said. “That's a Sweet 16 team from a year ago. … That's an NCAA Tournament team. That team is picked to win their league, and they've been together for about, you know, three years.

“We've been together about three months.”

For a new team still trying to figure things out, Auburn responded in a big way on Thanksgiving in the Bahamas. The Tigers went from a guard-heavy shootout loss to a post-centric, grind-it-out defensive win — a 62-53 victory to advance …

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