Auburn’s offense found its groove in Cancun on the way to a big 85-64 win over Bradley (3-2) in the first game of the Cancun Challenge Tuesday night. The Tigers (5-0) were led by five players in double figures, with four of them shooting 50% or better from the field.
“When we ran offense and we got the right spacing, we got good looks, we took care of the ball,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “When we got out of character and the wrong guy is bringing the ball up the floor, you know just scrambling around, we weren’t nearly as productive.”
It was more good than bad for Auburn as the Tigers shot 56.4% from the floor and 47.1% from the three-point line, both season-bests for the team. The Tigers’ 17 three-point attempts were the fewest the team has attempted all season and the first time they attempted under 23 shots from beyond the arc.
With the efficient but limited three point attempts, Auburn attacked the basket behind John Broome, who was back in the lineup after missing the matchup with Texas Southern.
Broome was dominant in the paint with 14 points and on the glass with a team-leading nine rebounds. He also led the way on defense with three blocked shots, most of Auburn’s five total.
The Tigers’ one-two punch at the center position continued tonight with Dylan Cardwell an efficient 21 minutes of action, contributing six points on 75% shooting as well as eight rebounds.
The Tigers also shot 75% from the charity stripe on 20 total attempts, tied for their best free throw shooting this year.
“I thought we shot it well, and I thought it was in rhythm,” Pearl said.
While the offense had its best night of the season so far, the defense was stout once again, showing the true potential of this team. The defense was not as dominant as previous games, but they held the Braves to just 42.9% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc.
“I think holding them to 64 points was really good. They made eight threes, which is too many. We tried to defend without fouling. I thought we wore them out a little bit,” Pearl said.
Auburn’s defense played a physical yet clean game, limiting the Braves to just 13 free throws. Bradley shot 61.5% from the charity stripe on the limited number of shots. They also racked up eight steals and five blocks.
The Tigers’ defense is built on an athletic lineup led by the likes of Broome, Allen Flanigan and Zep Jasper, but the depth of this team is what makes them truly dangerous on both ends of the floor.
Auburn once again had 10 players with 10 minutes or more on the floor, and 12 players in total saw action on the court.
“Our 11 is better than their seven and eight,” said sophomore center Johni Broome. “It's all about being able to rely on the guy next to you.”
No Auburn player was on the floor for more than 24 minutes, as the team was rested and outlasted a Bradley team that had four players with over 28 minutes of playing time.
For Broome and company, the focus will shift to tomorrow night and another chance for this team to improve the offense that has grown with each contest.
“These last couple days in practice down here, we’ve really been running our stuff really fast, trying to be more precise in our passing, our movements, executing,” said Broome. “If our halfcourt offense can get better, we’re a dangerous team, like you saw tonight.”
Auburn’s Wednesday opponent will be decided later tonight when Liberty and Northwestern square off. The winner of that game will play the Tigers at 7:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, while the loser will face Bradley.
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