Observations: Auburn 84, Washington 61
After an uneven first 20, the Tigers unleashed their best half of basketball this season to get a much-needed blowout road win before SEC play.
C Johni Broome (Steven Leonard/Auburn Athletics)
SEATTLE — Bruce Pearl called it “a kick-ass snowball fight.”
Although Seattle is pretty far north, locals say the city doesn’t get significant snow very often. But on Tuesday morning, a winter storm dumped several inches across the city.
That timed up perfectly with Auburn basketball’s first full day in Seattle. Less than 48 hours after a tough 3-point loss to USC in a much milder Los Angeles, the Tigers arrived in the biting cold of the Pacific Northwest, still stinging.
They went sightseeing Tuesday, visiting landmarks such as the famous Space Needle, the Pike Place Market and the first-ever Starbucks location. But the day began with what Pearl said might have been the most fun thing they did on the entire trip.
It was a lighthearted competition, and Auburn’s players were having a lot of fun.
The next night, in a more serious competition, they were still having a lot of fun.
This time, it was a 23-point win over Washington to end non-conference play and enter the SEC slate with a bang.
“It felt like Auburn basketball,” said Jaylin Williams, who says he is still not a fan of snow. “We’ve had fun in the past, but tonight was really a spark. Everyone was getting involved. No one was getting mad. Everyone was cheering for each other. No one was upset about their minutes or anything.
“We were having fun.”
Auburn overcame an offensive start that was as cold as the mid-20s temperatures outside Alaska Airlines Arena on Wednesday to build a 15-point first-half lead. While a bad stretch right before halftime gave Washington a lifeline, Auburn snatched it right back with an utterly dominant second half.
“First half, we were getting the looks, but we weren’t able to finish,” Johni Broome said. “We went into halftime, and our game plan was just to play our basketball and finish the shots. Take our time, be more patient. In the second half — from the inside out — everybody was making plays and making shots. We were able to dominate the game.”
In the final minutes, “It’s Great to Be an Auburn Tiger” chants from a loud pair of visiting fan sections echoed across Washington’s 9,268-seat home. An Auburn supporter even managed to chase the Huskies’ mascot away during the second half. The “witnesses” had taken over.
For the first time since the regular season finale in 2020, before the COVID outbreak ended its promising postseason push before it even began, Auburn had won a true road game by 20-plus.
“It’s a really good road win against a Pac-12 club,” Pearl said. “And it was everybody: Our inside guys did great, our guards did great. We made shots. We defended. Our guys should be proud of the progress they made on this trip, because I thought we played better at USC, too.”
Auburn went on this two-game West Coast swing looking to play better basketball and potentially reignite its season at the perfect time. Although it won’t return home for the holidays with two wins, the way the Tigers finished in Seattle — in the words of Pearl — will “make for a merrier Christmas.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 84-61 road win at Washington, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.
C Dylan Cardwell (Steven Leonard/Auburn Athletics)
The Tigers had the advantage inside — and played like it
Auburn knew what it was going to be able to do in Seattle on Wednesday night. Washington isn’t a particularly strong team from inside the arc on either end of the floor, and it doesn’t rebound at a high rate. The Huskies block shots well, but that’s more of a function of Mike Hopkins’ zone defense that he inherited from his days at Syracuse.
And, like Auburn’s win over Syracuse a year ago, there was a feeling-out process before the Tigers offense began to pull away. Broome went 3-10 from the field in the first half before going 6-7 in the second half. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and an impressive five assists.
Williams also had 18 points and eight rebounds, and he scored 14 of those points in the first half. He gave Auburn the firepower to build an early lead, and he was able to contribute in other ways in the second half as his teammates found their rhythm.
“We thought we had the advantage inside,” Pearl said. “We went inside to Johni and Jaylin often. We finished much better in the second half. First half, I was disappointed that we weren’t able to take our time and score more productively. It’s not about taking shots and getting shots — it’s about making shots.”