Observations: Auburn 83, Notre Dame 59
The Tigers were much deeper, older and stronger than the Fighting Irish on Thursday in Brooklyn — and they played like it in a blowout win.
PG Aden Holloway (Steven Leonard/Auburn Tigers)
BROOKLYN — Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry was trying to make a point about his team.
But he ended up giving one of the most ringing endorsements of Bruce Pearl and this Auburn basketball team in the process.
"You go up against Tre Donaldson and you go up against Aden Holloway, you don't get a chance to rest... There's nobody out there you can rest against,” Shrewsberry said Thursday night, after Auburn beat Notre Dame by 24 in Brooklyn. “You have to defend at a high level for 40 minutes.”
Shrewsberry would extend that point even further by pointing out “an All-American” in Auburn center Johni Broome and noting that “Dylan Cardwell plays harder than anyone else in the country.”
Pearl has two of everything at Auburn, and he leaned heavily on that in order to come away with an 83-59 win in the program’s first-ever meeting with Notre Dame.
Five players scored in double figures, including a team-high 15 points from both Holloway and Broome. After a lackluster finish to the first half on defense and on the boards, Auburn held Notre Dame to a paltry 22.2% shooting and won the rebounding battle by eight after halftime.
“We played great second-half defense,” Pearl said. “(Notre Dame was) a little tired. I thought offensively, we got what we wanted. We got really good looks. I thought we shared the ball really well.
“So it was a good win. Notre Dame is a historic program in the ACC. It’s a good win in our league.”
Here are four Observations, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night from Brooklyn.
PG Tre Donaldson (Steven Leonard/Auburn Tigers)
Auburn got elite point guard play all night long
The big news before tipoff was something that might have been expected: Holloway was going to get his first career start against Notre Dame, switching places in the rotation with Donaldson, after his SEC Freshman of the Week debut.
Holloway didn’t disappoint, going an absurd 4-5 on 3-pointers against an opponent that went 2-26 from deep as a team. He punished defenders who went under screens with quick pull-up triples. He had an improbable four-point play early in the second half that helped turn the game from somewhat competitive into a blowout.
Holloway is now shooting a ridiculous 52.4% from deep through the first three games of his collegiate career.
“Aden has got some special about him,” Pearl said. “He's going to make some tough ones, he's going to make some 4-point plays. He's going to come off that screen, and it doesn't take a lot to get off. Every time he shoots it, we think it's going in.”
So, with Holloway jumping into the starting lineup, how would Donaldson react? It was a fair question, and it was answered swiftly:
He was going to play the best game of his young sophomore season.
Donaldson finished with 10 points on an efficient 4-6 shooting from the field, and he went 2-4 from beyond the arc. He matched Holloway with a team-high five assists, and he was turnover-free. (Holloway had a pair of giveaways.) Inside a stretch of the second half that lasted just 3:19, Donaldson had five points and three assists.
Like Shrewsberry said, Auburn’s young point guards made sure Notre Dame’s own inexperienced backcourt didn’t get a moment’s rest Thursday night. It didn’t matter if it was Holloway or Donaldson — Auburn was getting elite, efficient play in terms of shot-making and shot-creating.
“Tremendous,” Pearl said. “It’s been a great competition all summer and fall. They’ve been pushing and pulling each other. We’re going to have a good point guard out there at all times. They’ve both got to improve defensively for us to have a chance to do what we want to do.
“But they’re both brilliant shooters. They’re both winners. And obviously they played great tonight.”
Point guard is the only spot on Auburn’s team that doesn’t have a ton of experience, as Holloway is a true freshman and Donaldson averaged just 10.5 minutes per game last season.
It’s still an area in which the Tigers need improvement on defense, as Pearl noted, but it’s also worth pointing out that Notre Dame freshman point guard Markus Burton went 4-20 from the field with just two assists. Burton didn’t always have Donaldson or Holloway on him, yet they both did a good job of making things more difficult for the Fighting Irish’s five-out, movement-heavy offense.
And there’s a chance for this impressive pair of underclassmen to get even better. Remember, this was just the third game of the season.
“Both Aden and Tre are incredibly hard workers,” Pearl said. “They really are.”
PF Jaylin Williams (Steven Leonard/Auburn Tigers)
The players — not Pearl — set the tone for the second half
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