Jump to content

11/28/22 Articles


aubiefifty
 Share

Recommended Posts





K.D. Johnson's late surge helps No. 13 Auburn stave off Saint Louis

Updated: Nov. 27, 2022, 5:13 p.m.|Published: Nov. 27, 2022, 4:18 p.m.
7–9 minutes

Johni Broome swatted the driving layup attempt from Yuri Collins, and K.D. Johnson corralled the ball near the baseline and cocked back.

The menacing two-guard uncorked a full-court pass to Allen Flanigan in transition, and Flanigan slammed home a thunderous dunk that served as a detonator for Neville Arena crowd, as a slow build of anxiety released with a deafening roar. Flanigan’s dunk gave Auburn a one-point lead in the final two minutes against Saint Louis, as the 13th-ranked Tigers erased a late five-point deficit to escape with a hard-fought 65-60 win against the Billikens on Sunday afternoon.

Johnson let out one of his signature yells and clutched his fists in excitement when Flanigan finished the play, as his pivotal full-court assist capped a late-game surge by the junior two-guard that helped Auburn remain undefeated, improving to 7-0 on the season after securing its strongest resume-building win of the year. Prior to his quarterback-esque assist to Flanigan, Johnson singlehandedly chipped away at Saint Louis’ late lead with a pair of strong drives and finishes at the rim when Auburn most needed it.

“He’s special, y’know?” guard Wendell Green Jr. said. “He crazy, too.... That’s what he can do. He can win games for you. He won one game for us last year. He brought us back once he subbed in. Just ready to go, and that’s what we need on our team.”

Johnson finished in traffic at the rim with 3:16 to go to cut the Billikens’ lead to three. After Saint Louis missed a pair of free throws on the other end, Johnson followed with another drive and finish to cut the deficit to one with 2:33 to play. His miniature burst snapped a late-game funk from Auburn, which had made just two of its prior 13 shots and struggled to create offensively, and it sparked a 12-2 game-closing run for the Tigers on their home floor.

“That was a great win,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Beat a really good team, Quad 1 team. A team that will compete for the Atlantic 10 championship. It’s hard to beat a good team twice, let alone three out of the last four years. Travis Ford is a great coach. We just had a little more.”

Here are AL.com’s key takeaways from Auburn’s heart-racing win:

Wendell Green Jr. bounces back with season high

Auburn’s floor general has had an uneven week or so on the court, but just like he did after last weekend’s win against Texas Southern, Wendell Green Jr. managed to bounce back again.

Fresh off a 1-of-9 shooting performance against Northwestern on Wednesday in the Cancun Challenge, Green turned in an efficient offensive effort against Saint Louis and finished with a season-high 22 points. That included 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half to pace Auburn, which went through a few peaks and valleys offensively in the opening period. Green finished the afternoon shooting 7-of-14 from the floor, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range. He was responsible for two of Auburn’s three makes from beyond the arc on an afternoon the team shot just 3-of-18 from deep. He was 6-of-8 from the free-throw line and added four rebounds, an assist and a steal.

“That’s one of the things I worked on, mentally, in the offseason,” Green said. “I think it was last year, I went through a rough stretch at the end. It was like four or five games. I told myself, ‘I can’t let that happen if I really want to be as good as I say.’ So you know, a bad game is gonna happen. I had a bad game shooting against Northwestern, but my goal is to come out here and show you can always bounce back, and then try to get a couple more games good in a row. It was just all mental.”

Green, whose 22 points were one off his Auburn career-high of 23 from last year’s Alabama game, also helped ice the game late, scoring the final four points for the Tigers.

“We had the best player on the floor tonight: Wendell Green,” Pearl said. “He was the best player on the floor at Saint Louis, and he was again today. Is it any coincidence that Yuri Collins is one of the top five point guards in the country recognized by everybody? (Does that) have something to do with it? It probably does. Wendell keeps score. He’s special.”

Johni Broome fills the stat sheet

Johni Broome stood near the free-throw line and look toward Auburn’s bench as the seconds ticked off the clock at the end of the first half.

The Tigers big man was communicating with Bruce Pearl and staff, making sure he had the right call for the final possession of the half. Broome’s man went to set a high screen for Javon Pickett, and Broome switched onto the Saint Louis guard, shadowing him as he drove to the basket to beat the buzzer. Pickett went up for the layup, and Broome erased it.

“All bigs love that,” Pearl said. “All bigs want to get on that guard because they’re tired of getting banged in there.”

It was Broome’s fifth block of the half and preserved a three-point halftime lead for Auburn. Broome finished the game flirting with a triple-double. He had 11 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks. His eight blocks were the second most of his career, behind only a 12-block effort last season while at Morehead State.

“Defense wins championships,” Broome said. “...I knew I had to make an impact on the game, and that was rebounding and blocking shots. You know, eight blocks, I ain’t know I had that many blocks, really.”

While he was strong on the defensive end and made some key baskets Saint Louis, he struggled to finish near the rim, as he finished 4-of-14 shooting, with many of those misses coming around the basket.

“He made some tough baskets in there,” Pearl said. “Obviously, he missed some shots around the basket. Those aren’t easy shots. When he gets to finishing more, we’ll be better.”

Chance Westry settles into one role

Just days after expressing the need to get freshman Chance Westry comfortable in a set role for Auburn, Bruce Pearl at least experimented with that idea against Saint Louis.

Westry, who played point guard and wing—and on a couple of occasions, shooting guard—during his first four games since returning from preseason knee surgery, only rotated in at point guard for Auburn on Sunday. Westry worked behind Wendell Green Jr., playing just seven minutes and finishing with two points and a rebound. His shift to solely point guard against Saint Louis meant fellow freshman Tre Donaldson, who has seen his minutes decrease this week as Pearl tightened the rotation, was not in the Tigers’ main rotation Sunday.

Free throws make a difference

In a five-point game that saw neither team lead by double digits, the free-throw line loomed large. In this case, it benefitted Auburn, which shot 14-of-22 from the line. Saint Louis was just 4-of-14 on free-throw attempts, including just 1-of-11 in the second half.

That proved costly for the Billikens, particularly as they watched their late five-point lead slip away. After going up five with 4:43 to play, Saint Louis went 0-of-4 from the line -- including a pair of misses that were sandwiched by Johnson’s two late drives that got Auburn to within one point with 2:33 to play.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...