Observations: Auburn 88, Penn 68
The Tigers went inside-out — but not in that order — to win their final non-conference game and stay hot ahead of their first SEC test.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
For the first 10 minutes Tuesday night, it felt like Auburn’s all-time 3-pointer record was going to be in serious jeopardy.
Denver Jones drilled a triple to open the game. On the next possession, Johni Broome then broke a personal 3-pointer drought that stretched back to Nov. 16 against Notre Dame — the third game of the season. By the halfway mark of the first half, Auburn already had 30 points and gone a remarkable 8-12 from downtown.
The Tigers cooled off from deep after that, finishing 12-35 (34.3%) from deep. The program record of 21 from a December 2016 win over Coastal Carolina would survive.
But it didn’t matter. Auburn went into the halftime locker room with 51 points after cashing in a bunch from the free-throw line against a scrambling Penn defense. Then, in the second half — even when a sweet-shooting Penn team went 7-14 on 3s — the Tigers still outscored the Quakers by going 13-18 on 2-pointers.
“Honestly, it was just the natural flow,” Jones said after Auburn’s 88-68 win. “First half, we were hitting shots. Second half, we were going inside. We noticed our 3s weren’t falling, so we decided to get back in the paint.
“Inside-out. Work inside-out.”
Sure, there were some negatives in the Tigers’ final non-conference game of the season. Bruce Pearl and his staff will undoubtedly spend time correcting them before Auburn travels to Arkansas for its SEC opener this weekend.
But a team can survive colder stretches of shooting when it has talented inside scorers, a bench that can drop nearly 40 points and a team-wide assist-to-turnover ratio that is getting increasingly more impressive — it was 19-to-6 on Tuesday.
“Johni Broome dominated in there, and we shared it,” Pearl said, pointing to Broome’s 24-point, 11-rebound performance in which he only missed a single shot attempt. “We obviously took care of business. Now we get ready to go into conference play.”
As Pearl said again Tuesday night, Auburn is “in position to be in position” heading into the upcoming SEC slugfest.
Since falling to App State in an uncharacteristically rough offensive performance, the Tigers have won six straight games. All of them have been by 16 or more points. All but one of them have been by 20 or more points.
Auburn is one of the few teams in the country to be ranked inside the top 20 in KenPom for both offense and defense, with both sides playing off of each other well in what has been a red-hot stretch of basketball.
“We just look like a whole new team,” Broome said. “After that App State loss, I think everybody just locked in. … Everybody plays better when they’re playing better defense and making more shots. It just carries on.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 88-68 win over Penn, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Johni Broome is on a heater at a great time
At the beginning of Auburn’s winning streak, Broome wasn’t having as much statistical impact on the game as he had earlier in the season — just 2 points against Indiana, followed by 6 against UNC Asheville and 11 against USC. Broome was still playing effective basketball, but it wasn’t quite the same.
That has changed over the last three outings, as Broome has taken full advantage of favorable matchups to put together another great run. He is averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting 20-24 (83.3%) from 2-point range, and he’s averaging 11 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per outing as well.
“He's just got such a great offensive pace to his game,” Pearl said. “He doesn't rush. He's a great athlete, he's got great balance, and he's able to do a lot of things in there offensively. He scores with his back to the basket, he's old-school.”
Broome’s only missed shot against Penn came from 3-point range. That was fine, though, as he hit his other three attempts. That marked the first time in his career in which he’s hit three triples in a single game.
For a player who hadn’t hit one in nearly two months, the outburst from deep was a sight for sore eyes. (No pun intended.)