Observations: Auburn 66, Texas A&M 55
The Tigers were finally able to take down the Aggies with elite defense, team-wide poise and more magic from Jaylin Williams.
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Jaylin Williams was tired of losing to Texas A&M.
No one has ever won more basketball games in an Auburn uniform than Williams. He’s already been a part of an SEC title-winning team, another that made it to the NCAA Tournament and another that would have made it if the event hadn’t been canceled.
But only one of his previous 99 wins had ever come against the Aggies. That happened two years ago, when the Tigers had Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler in a College GameDay showcase matchup. Texas A&M exacted its revenge weeks later by knocking Auburn out of the SEC Tournament early.
Williams entered Tuesday night just 1-5 all-time against Texas A&M. So there was no better Tiger to plunge the metaphorical dagger into the Aggies when he rose up and fired a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left on the clock.
“A couple plays before, BP and the staff were telling me to take the first shot, because I had the same exact look,” said Williams, who now has 100 victories at Auburn. “So I knew as soon as I caught the ball the next time, I was like, ‘I've not done this too many times, I've got to knock this down and seal the deal.’”
The triple gave him his fourth 20-point game in the last month, and it sealed Auburn’s eighth straight victory.
For the vast majority of Tuesday night, the Tigers were locked into a grueling, defense-first street fight with the Aggies that stayed a one-possession game until the final two minutes and a two-possession game until Williams’ clutch shot.
While Auburn got to savor its big-time basket, Texas A&M was desperately just trying to hit one on the other end. For the final 9:15 of regulation, the Aggies did not hit a single shot from the field — just seven free throws. They missed 10 straight to end it.
During this winning streak from the Tigers, high-octane offense has been the main attraction. Auburn was averaging over 90 points per game since its last loss, and it just dropped 83 on Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena three days earlier.
But the SEC home opener Tuesday night had to be won in an uglier fashion. Like in its loss to App State in December, Auburn struggled to hit open 3-pointers, finishing 5-22 (22.7%) from deep as a team.
In hindsight, a typical shooting performance from Auburn would have turned this into a comfortable victory instead of the grit-and-grind affair it was.
However, this time — against a more talented opponent and in front of its own fans — Auburn made life extremely difficult on an already-challenged Texas A&M offense. The team that has been lighting up scoreboards recently proved that it could win a true defensive slugfest, and that could go a long way in the chase for some hardware.
Here are four Observations, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night from Auburn’s 66-55 win over Texas A&M.
C Johni Broome (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Defense wins championships — or at least makes you a championship contender
Remember when Pearl had serious doubts about his defense heading into the season?
All that seems like a distant memory now. Auburn held Texas A&M to just 29% shooting Tuesday night, which is a ridiculously good number against any type of Division I opponent — much less the SEC preseason No. 2 pick with the Player of the Year favorite on it.
That POTY favorite, Wade Taylor IV, finished the game shooting 2-16 from the field and 0-8 from deep. His longtime backcourt partner, Tyrece Radford, only went 4-13 from the field. Instead of lighting up the Tigers like they’ve done in the past, the Aggies’ dynamic duo was held in check.
“We fouled them a little bit down the stretch, but we knew if we stayed in front of those guards, they couldn’t beat us,” Williams said.
That’s a significant development for several of Auburn’s guards, because it showed that they were able to lock down and play defense without rolling on offense.