Observations: Auburn 70, LSU 55
In a massive SEC opener inside a rowdy Auburn Arena, the orange-and-blue Tigers beat the purple-and-gold Tigers at their own game.
C Walker Kessler (Jacob Taylor/Auburn Athletics)
Walker Kessler didn’t know his stat line. That much was obvious when LSU’s Darius Days pulled back to attempt a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left Wednesday night.
If Days, who had missed eight of his previous 11 attempts from deep, had another one go off the rim, Kessler would be in perfect position to grab his 10th rebound and secure the second triple-double in Auburn basketball history.
Instead, Kessler’s instincts took over. He did what he had done the whole night — try to block the shot. Kessler did just that, giving him an Auburn Arena-record 11.
The Auburn bench told him after the clock hit all zeroes that he only had nine boards to go with his 16 points and 11 blocks. Kessler yelled in frustration, but there was no wiping the giant grin on the 7-foot-1 center’s face.
But, by the time Bruce Pearl and Kessler left the locker room for postgame interviews, the word was starting to make rounds. The official stats were going to be corrected, as the scorekeeper incorrectly credited a Kessler defensive rebound to the team during the first half. (Pearl even joked with the radio crew that he would have a statistician fired if the triple-double wasn’t given.)
Kessler’s confirmed triple-double made Wednesday night historic. It was already monumental, even without the rare statistical feat.
Auburn delivered a massive statement to the rest of the SEC and college basketball with its 70-55 win over an LSU team that entered the day as one of only five undefeated teams left in Division I.
The Tigers’ first ranked vs. ranked matchup in front of a sellout Auburn Arena crowd since an overtime thriller against LSU 22 months earlier lived up to the hype and then some. Auburn stared down an LSU team led by the nation’s most dominant defense and beat it at its own game.
“We didn't want to look back, knowing we only play them once in the regular season, and know that that's a team that's going to compete for a championship,” Pearl said. “We don't want anyone to do our work for us, so it was an opportunity not only for us to get one but to give them one.”
Here are five Observations, the Rotation Chart, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night from Auburn’s 15-point win over LSU.
‘It starts and ends with Walker Kessler’
It’s a stat line that will live in history at Auburn. In his first SEC game, Kessler missed just two shots and blocked 11 of LSU’s. He had 10 rebounds, and none of LSU’s starters had more than five. Will Wade’s Bayou Bengals shot just 28.6% from the field, and Kessler played a massive part in making that happen.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Pearl said. “It starts and ends with Walker Kessler. Walker gets a triple-double tonight. His ability to protect the rim and just, I mean — LSU got the ball to some really good spots, and Walker just cleans everything up. So, boy, if there's a better defender, shot blocker or rim protector in the country, I haven't seen him.”