AUBURN — In the 25th consecutive sellout at Neville Arena, the Tigers prevailed again in front of a raucous home crowd. Behind the dynamic duo of point guard Wendell Green Jr. and small forward Allen Flanigan, Auburn overcame a halftime deficit and defeated the University of South Florida (USF), 67-59.
Last year's game in Tampa was the Tigers' lowest-scoring game of the season, and it was a defensive battle once again as Auburn's shooting woes continued.
"Eerily similar to last year. I knew South Florida would do a good job of guarding us," said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. "I thought it would be a low-scoring game. We weren't sharp, and give them credit for it. We didn't execute."
Auburn shot just 40% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc and had just two players, Green and Flanigan, score in double figures.
Green was an efficient leader of the offense, leading the team with 20 points on 5-of-11 shooting and a team-best 9-of-11 from the free throw line. He pushed the offense forward, but Allen Flanigan was able to take a huge step forward in his senior season with a solid 18 points on a very efficient 6-of-9 from the field.
"We need Al. It's great to see him back out there," said Green. "I told y'all before the season, I saw it all summer and all fall. He showed it tonight."
Flanigan struggled with ball control issues and finished the game with five of Auburn's 20 turnovers, the most on the team.
Auburn's offense needed the jolts from the duo after the team was slow out of the gate once again, scoring 21 points in the first 20 minutes, leading to a nine-point deficit to the Bulls at the break, and forcing head coach Bruce Pearl and his staff to make some adjustments in the locker room.
"We're not really good offensively right now. Our defense is going to have to carry us, which it did tonight," Pearl said.
Outside of Green, the rest of the starters were a combined 4-of-18 from the field, forcing Pearl to turn to his bench once again. Auburn's 34 bench points, 18 from Flanigan, were the key as the Tigers had 10 players see the floor for 10 or more minutes.
"We play 10 guys. That's BP's style of play," Flanigan said. "A lot of teams aren't going to play 10 guys. The purpose of that is for us to wear guys out."
Keeping the guys fresh allowed Auburn's tenacious defense to show up again, led by Zep Jasper's three steals and Dylan Cardwell's five blocks. Overall, Auburn finished the game with 11 steals and seven blocks.
"His effort and energy, his ability to block shots and rebound, Dylan Cardwell was a factor," Pearl said. "For a man his size, he moves so very well."
USF shot just 35% from the field and an abysmal 14% from the three-point line, as Auburn's defense was a key in the second-half comeback.
The win tonight gives Auburn 40 straight home non-conference wins dating back to the 2015-2016 campaign. Bruce Pearl is 50-3 in non-conference games at home since he arrived on the Plains.
Auburn will have a break, as most of the team will likely revel in the victory near the student section of Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, and the team will be back on the court on November 15 to take on Winthrop in yet another non-conference home game.
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