Observations: Auburn 86, Oklahoma 68
Led by their superstar frontcourt, the Tigers never trailed and were barely tied with a tough Oklahoma team in their 17th straight victory.
PF Jabari Smith (Matthew Shannon/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn never trailed. After the initial basket, the game was never tied again.
Those two sentences have only been true for four of the Tigers’ 20 wins this season. The first was the opener against Morehead State, which will fight for the auto-bid out of the Ohio Valley Conference. The second was Yale, which is currently in second place in the Ivy League. The third was North Alabama, which is only in its fourth season of Division I basketball and entered the weekend at 8-12.
The fourth was Oklahoma, which is a top-30 KenPom team with a top-30 defense that has played one of the toughest schedules in the country this season.
After putting up 55 points in one of its worst offensive performances in years earlier in the week, Auburn dropped 86 points back at home on a Porter Moser defense that had surrendered more than 80 just once all season. But Baylor can’t even say it hit 86.
Oh, and Auburn shot 26.1% from 3-point range and had just 12 assists to 10 turnovers.
“Oklahoma is a really good defensive team, and they defend style-wise a little bit like us — we extend a little bit more — but like some of the way we treat our ball-screens,” Bruce Pearl said. “So, therefore, Oklahoma knows how to attack us, and we knew how to attack Oklahoma a little bit.
“And then, look, it helps having some of the tools that we have.”
If there are any doubts about the Tigers’ status as the top team in college basketball right now, Saturday should have put them to bed. Auburn became the first team to hit 20 wins this season. It has won 17 straight games. No other Division I team has fewer than two losses, and Auburn’s only one came two months ago in double overtime.
Sure, Oklahoma threatened and cut Auburn’s lead all the way down to 3 with 12:24 left. But Auburn immediately answered with a 5-0 run, which matched the longest ones Oklahoma had all game. Auburn had runs of 7-0, 7-0 and 8-0 — with the latter one giving the Tigers a 20-point lead before a late Sooners bucket.
It’s just January, but Auburn is riding high. It’s No. 1 for the first time ever. It just locked down Pearl to a longterm contract that will take him into his 70s. And it can apparently beat potential NCAA Tournament teams from a cutthroat Big 12 by 18 without having a phenomenal offensive performance.
“This (SEC-Big 12) challenge matters,” Pearl said. “It matters on Selection Sunday. And so what we did was be one of the top teams in the SEC at home. We just held serve.”
Here are five Observations, the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Day from Auburn’s 86-68 win over Oklahoma.