Observations: Auburn 86, Southeastern Louisiana 71
It was an uneven night of basketball — but it was also a high-scoring and history-making night of basketball for the Tigers.
PF Jaylin Williams (Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
It’s somewhat fitting that Jaylin Williams’ history-making night played out like it did.
Williams has had to grind through some tough times on the Plains. He didn’t play much in his freshman season until the final few games — only to have his first shot at the postseason taken away by the COVID outbreak. He’s been with Auburn when offense has been tough to come by, like large stretches of his sophomore and senior seasons. He’s had to share minutes with a wide variety of players, too.
But Williams has kept a trademark steady attitude throughout his Auburn career. And that attitude has led to plenty of success.
So, when he missed each of his first four shots Friday against Southeastern Louisiana, it shouldn’t have been surprising at all when the fifth-year senior checked back into the game and drilled a pair of 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions.
“(Assistant coach) Ira Bowman, he always tells me to be aggressive,” Williams said. “Sometimes, I get away from shooting if I'm not hitting, and he'll be like, ‘I don't care if you're 2-20. If you're wide open, catch and shoot, and it'll fall eventually.’”
Williams’ triples played a role in Auburn putting together a strong second half of offense and putting away a pesky SELA team for an 86-71 win.
With his 88th victory as a Tiger, Williams became the winningest player in Auburn basketball history, breaking a tie he shared with former teammates Allen Flanigan and Anfernee McLemore, along with late-1990s shooter Scott Pohlman.
“It feels amazing to represent the last name on the back of my jersey and my family,” Williams said. “If it wasn’t for these guys (his teammates)… it wouldn’t have happened. So I shoutout my team and my coaching staff for believing in us as a team.”
While congratulating Williams on his big achievement was the first thing Bruce Pearl did when he walked into the locker room after the game — and even though the Tigers scored 86 points, something they didn’t do often last season — the Auburn head coach wasn’t pleased with the game itself.
“I’m still not happy,” Pearl said. “You know, we give up 43 points in the second half (tonight), 54 against Baylor. That’s 97 points in the second half of basketball. It’s just not really good enough. We only turned them over one time in the second half.
“I’m still having to coach effort and energy, and that’s a problem. I think the thing that’s got to translate is, ‘How much do you hate losing?’ If we can’t pick up our effort and our energy, our physicality of our play, finishing plays… if I can get the guys kind of focused on that, then we’ve got a chance to be OK.”
Auburn ultimately took care of business in its home opener Friday night and had some positive developments in the final box score.
But the Tigers didn’t always look like the same team that played well days earlier against a strong Baylor squad, and that’ll give Pearl and his staff more to work on before Auburn heads to Brooklyn for two games next week.
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 86-71 win over Southeastern Louisiana, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.
PG Aden Holloway (Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
Shooters shoot — and this team has quite a few of them
Early in the game, it felt like there was an invisible lid over the rim for Auburn. The Tigers got plenty of good looks — some from deep, some right at the basket — and yet they couldn’t get much to fall.
Auburn started the game 3-16 (18.8%) from the field. In the first 14 minutes, the Tigers went a paltry 1-10 (10%) from 3-point range. This offense didn’t look much like the one that put up efficient numbers three days earlier against Baylor in South Dakota.
But Auburn didn’t let that cold start stick around for too long. The Tigers got a pair of triples from freshman phenom Aden Holloway to stretch their lead to double-digits, and they started the second half with 3s from both Johni Broome and Tre Donaldson.
Auburn hit 10 of its final 22 shots from beyond the arc (45.5%). Through two games, the Tigers are shooting 39.2% on 3-pointers, which is a far cry from their performances over the last four seasons — when they shot under 33% in all of them.
This Auburn team kept attacking the open looks, and they started falling as the game continued. The Tigers have a certified sniper in Holloway, who became the only Auburn freshman in (at least) two decades to hit three or more 3-pointers in each of his first two games. He had three on Friday after hitting four on Tuesday.
“You know, the lights come on, the lights get bright, and No. 1 shows up,” Pearl said of Holloway, who also led the team in plus/minus at +17. “He does.”
And this Auburn team looks like it’s going to be able to shoot from all over. Williams had his back-to-back threes. Johnson hit a pair, too. Donaldson, Broome, Denver Jones and Chad Baker-Mazara all connected from deep Friday night.
It’s a real weapon when you can trust more than half of your rotation to knock down 3-pointers. Jones and Baker-Mazara, who have been high-caliber shooters throughout their college careers, could probably afford to hunt more 3s.
And Pearl is confident that the light is going to come on soon for Chaney Johnson, who tied Broome with a team-high 11 rebounds but went 2-11 from the field and 0-3 from deep.
“Every shot he takes, I like,” Pearl said. “He is our hardest worker. He is in the gym all the time, and so I want him to keep shooting. I think he adds to the degree of difficulty inside by twisting and flipping and floating, and that stuff needs to go away. I just think he’s very unselfish.
“He’s one of those guys, he plays the way I want to play now. He is athletic and he’ll fly around. And so I’m OK with Chaney maybe tricking off a few shots. But he really helps us defensively, and obviously with 11 boards — seven offensive boards — that’s how he needs to play. I was actually very happy with how he played tonight.”
Despite shooting a dreadful percentage and only scoring 16 points in the “first quarter” of the game, Auburn still finished the game with 86 on the board. The Tigers didn’t score 80-plus points in back-to-back games at any point last season, and they’re already 2-for-2.
“We shot the ball decent tonight, but usually we shoot the ball pretty well as a team,” Williams said. “Everybody on the team can score 1-on-1. Everyone can go by anybody and score.”
Auburn has a lot of weapons and has clearly taken a step forward on offense from last season. Combine that with a short collective memory from its shooters, and you’ve got the potential for a truly elite offense down the road.
SF Chad Baker-Mazara (Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers)
The Law Offices of Baker-Mazara & Johnson
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