Observations: Auburn 77, Saint Bonaventure 60
Some sensational first-half basketball in Brooklyn led to another double-digit win and another multi-team event title for the Tigers.
(Steven Leonard/Auburn Tigers)
BROOKLYN — Johni Broome wasn’t ready for it.
When an event staffer tapped him on the shoulder Friday night, pulling him away from his team’s celebration on the floor in Brooklyn, he said he wasn’t even thinking about what was coming next.
The staffer told him the news, then the PA announcer boomed it throughout the NBA’s Barclays Center: Broome was the 2023 Legends Classic MVP after averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in an 83-59 win over Notre Dame on Thursday and then a 77-60 win over Saint Bonaventure on Friday.
“Honestly, I didn’t know that I would get MVP,” Broome said. “I was just happy for my teammates… I wasn’t really playing the best toward the end of the game.”
It didn’t matter that Broome wasn’t excellent after halftime. He had just five points and one rebound in the second half, going 3-8 from the free-throw line.
But he had Dylan Cardwell, who stepped up with a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe along with three big second-half rebounds.
“He was poised and he played great defense down the stretch,” head coach Bruce Pearl said of Cardwell. “And his biggest fan was Johni Broome. That’s the kind of chemistry that our team can, obviously, develop through (Broome’s) leadership.”
Broome also had Jaylin Williams, who put the finishing touches on his second career double-double. He had K.D. Johnson and Denver Jones making plays in the backcourt — and they also helped make up for a scoreless second half from Aden Holloway and Tre Donaldson.
That’s Auburn basketball, through four games of what could be a thrilling 2023-24 season: Rolling 10 deep and having anyone be a legitimate threat to get hot.
“I was focused on my teammates and celebrating the win,” Broome said. “I was trying to get hyped.”
That was on full display in a sensational final minute of the first half, when Williams’ breakaway windmill dunk was bookended by a pair of 3-pointers from Chad Baker-Mazara and Jones.
All of a sudden, Auburn was up by 20 at halftime on a top-100 KenPom team a long way from home.
Broome wasn’t even on the floor for the run, with the Tigers electing to go with a small-ball lineup that had Williams at center.
“Pretty exciting basketball,” Pearl said. “You don’t always get on runs like that. But, obviously, we took control of the game.”
That surge was enough that, when Auburn cooled off after halftime, it really didn’t matter. Saint Bonaventure only won the second half by three points. The closest the Bonnies got was an 11-point deficit, and that was quickly answered by the Tigers.
Now Auburn will head back to the Plains with a pair of quality neutral-site wins to add to its resume and another multi-team event title to put in the trophy case.
“It gives us confidence,” Broome said. “We got another game before Thanksgiving break. And then we’ll come back to try to keep momentum going.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 77-60 win over Saint Bonaventure in Brooklyn, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.
PG Aden Holloway (Steven Leonard/Auburn Tigers)
Auburn’s balance and the ball movement are elite
Auburn had 10 players play Friday night. All of them played at least 16 minutes. None of them played more than 24 minutes.
Nine of those 10 players scored at least three points and had one assist. (Chaney Johnson, who once again played well without scoring, was the exception.) Six of them scored at least eight points. Three were in double figures. Seven different players had multiple assists, with four tying for the team lead with three.
Everybody who takes the floor for Auburn in this rotation is a threat to do something strong with the ball on the offensive end. The Tigers are scoring on the inside through Broome and the slashers. And, even though they shot just 33% from deep Friday, they’re still top-50 nationally through the first two weeks of the season at 38.9% on 3-pointers.
As longtime Saint Bonaventure head coach Mike Schmidt put it, Auburn has “a lot of answers.”
According to KenPom, Auburn has assisted on 70.8% of its made field goals this season. That’s good enough for No. 8 in the country. Auburn hasn’t finished higher than No. 70 in that category under Pearl.
The Tigers have now recorded 20-plus assists in three straight games. Sports Reference only has game logs dating back to 2010. During that time span, Auburn has never had a three-game streak like this.
Pair that ball movement with incredible balance, and this becomes a nightmare of an offense to face. Holloway went just 2-10 from the field and 2-7 from deep, and Donaldson hit just one three for his entire point total.
But Jones helped pick them up by being incredibly efficient, going 3-3 from deep and 3-4 from the free-throw line for his best performance as a Tiger. Not bad for a transfer guard who wasn’t at 100% this week.
“I’m really glad for Denver that he shot the ball well, played better defensively,” Pearl said. “He had a little bit of a groin tweak the day before our first game against Notre Dame. He was questionable, but he played through it and obviously played much better tonight.
“I thought we got great play from our 2-guard tonight between K.D. Johnson and Denver Jones. I thought they both played really well at both ends of the floor.”
Auburn can go inside-out in a variety of ways, and it trusts players who aren’t point guards to create.
The Tigers ended the first half on a 13-3 run with buckets from five different players, and all but one of them were assisted — the breakaway windmill dunk from Williams that he created with a steal.
That’s balance. That’s ball movement. That’s Bruce Pearl’s Auburn basketball.
(Steven Leonard/Auburn Tigers)
A defense grows in Brooklyn
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