Observations: Auburn 94, Vanderbilt 80
Jabari Smith went nuclear, Walker Kessler did Walker Kessler things and the bench punched back from an early deficit in another big win.
PF Jabari Smith (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Jabari Smith missed his first 3-pointer Wednesday night. He turned the ball over on the next possession after passing up another attempt from beyond the arc. Then his second 3-point attempt missed the mark.
Vanderbilt raced down the floor, corralled an offensive board off a Walker Kessler block and then scored on a mid-range jumper.
Auburn found itself down 11-0 in less than three minutes. But the message to Smith from the bench was steadfast.
“We just kept on yelling at him to keep shooting,” Bruce Pearl said.
The confidence in Smith from Pearl was high, even though Auburn had been in the midst of a long 3-point cold spell as a team and was down by double-digits in a hurry. And Smith felt it.
“That’s why you come to Auburn,” Smith said. “He’s going to trust you.”
On the next possession, Smith drilled a 3-pointer. Later in the first half, he hit his next attempt from deep. Then he hit the next one.
After halftime, he hit another. And another. And another. And another.
He didn’t miss another one until there was 4:14 left, when he took a heat check in transition with the Tigers up by 18 points.
Smith would hit his final attempt from the floor to give him a career-high 31 points on 10-16 shooting and a mesmerizing 7-10 from downtown. He became the first Auburn freshman since Toney Douglas in 2005 to have a 30-point game. He also became the first Auburn player to score 30 points on 60% or better from the field in an SEC game since Chris Denson in 2014.
“Obviously, Jabari was spectacular,” Pearl said. “You can see what an amazing jump-shooter he is.”
Smith’s performance was so amazing, it somewhat overshadowed Walker Kessler’s career-high 22 points, plus seven rebounds and seven more blocks. Then there was Wendell Green Jr. putting up 12 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. And then there was the phenomenal bench showing, led by Green and Devan Cambridge, that sparked Auburn’s initial comeback and finished off the game in style.
“I just feel like with our team’s depth — any given night, any guy can have a career night or go off,” Kessler said.
Auburn had two career nights and multiple “going off” games Wednesday night against Vanderbilt. Now Pearl’s Tigers have a multi-game lead again in the SEC title race.
Here are five Observations from Auburn’s 94-80 win over Vanderbilt, plus the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.