Become an 1819 Member
AUBURN — Auburn has been a true second-half team through the start of the 2022-2023 season, and the same was true Friday as the Tigers overcame another stagnant first half to defeat Texas Southern 72-56. Auburn outscored the Tigers of Texas Southern 43-29 in the second half after leading by just two points at the break.
"Usually in the past, like last year, the second half was a struggle for us. I think we have been much better," said junior forward Chris Moore. "The older guys on the team, they have been pushing through and just playing harder than other teams in the second half."
Auburn's issues on offense in the first half were compounded by physical play from the Texas Southern defenders that killed several Auburn possessions before they could begin.
The Tigers of the SEC had 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes while shooting 35.5% from the floor.
"Those were older, well-coached players. Stripped and ripped us. We were not strong with the ball," said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. "We did not execute very well. We did a much better job in the second half."
Absent from the starting lineup was center Johni Broome, who had the best game of his short Auburn career on Tuesday against Winthrop. Broome, who had been dealing with an ankle injury, was out Friday due to a bone bruise that he suffered against Winthrop.
"We did not have Johni (Broome). He banged knees in the game against Winthrop," Pearl said. "He has not been able to practice. I think he will be fine for Cancun."
Without Broome, Auburn utilized Dylan Cardwell and Babatunde Akingbola as the primary centers while mixing in rotations of Jaylin Williams and others. The Tigers struggled without the transfer from Morehead State.
Texas Southern had 16 second-chance points and 14 offensive rebounds, beating Auburn in both categories and something that kept them in the game through the first 35 minutes of action. But Auburn's halftime changes proved too much for Texas Southern down the stretch.
"We beat a good team tonight," Pearl said. "Great balance."
The second-half performance for Auburn was as complete as it gets on both ends of the floor. The offense came alive, shooting 56% from the floor and 73.3% from the free throw line, while the defense was unyielding as they swarmed the Texas Southern offense. In the second half, the visiting Tigers shot 29% from the field and did not make a three-pointer. A solid 11-of-14 from the charity stripe was the only real bright spot for Texas Southern as it turned the ball over nine times in the final 20 minutes and 20 overall.
A trio of double-digit scorers, K.D. Johnson, Chris Moore and Jaylin Williams, combined for 44 of Auburn's points in the win.
Johnson's 16 led the team, and his stepback three, followed by an alley-oop to Allen Flanigan, broke the game open in the second half. Johnson also was a near-perfect 6-of-7 from the line, and the team was 75% overall from the free throw line.
Moore's 14 points were a career-high on an efficient 4-of-7 shooting from the floor, including a trio of threes which tied a career-high for him as well.
"Chris Moore played really well," Pearl said. "He's a team favorite, a fan favorite because he's a great kid, works so hard, and has been so unselfish waiting his turn. It's good to see him play with confidence."
Moore's 11 points in the second half led the team, and he did not miss a shot during the second period. Overall, the Tigers controlled the second half and have now won 42-straight non-conference games at home.
"We did what we needed to do in this four-game homestand," Pearl said. "I do think we've gotten better. I do think we've learned, and we'll go from here."
The Tigers will put that to the test as they travel to Cancun and take on Bradley on November 22 before facing either Liberty or Northwestern the next day.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.