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AUBURN — Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said once his players start hitting shots, the team has a chance to be really good, and that was true tonight as Auburn’s offense finally raced to a huge 89-65 win over Winthrop.
“With all the upsets in college basketball, especially with some of the mid-major teams that can really shoot it, you have to be ready,” Pearl said. “The only way this team was going to beat us was from 3, and we just didn’t let them.”
The Eagles shot 29% from beyond the arc in the loss.
Auburn’s 50-point second half was bolstered by hot shots from all over the field. The Tigers shot 52.8 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in the second half, both season bests for the team.
The second-half push was bolstered by junior point guard Wendell Green Jr. and sophomore center John Broome, each scoring 10 points on highly effective shooting.
Overall, Green shot 60% on the way to 16 points, four rebounds and five assists. He has scored 16 or more goals in all three games this season.
“Wendell Green was the best player on the court tonight, which was great to see,” Pearl said. “He just did what he wanted to do.”
The second-half push was important for Auburn after a tough first half that featured nine straight missed shots from the field by the young team. In the first half, shooting just 40.5 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three, Auburn again relied on their tenacious defense, holding Winthrop to 26 points on 31 percent shooting. Auburn’s strong defensive half was bolstered by eight blocks, five from Broome and three interceptions.
Although Winthrop was able to string together a better half offensively in the final 20 minutes, they were still required to shoot 40.6% and fell to Neville Arena.
Winthrop’s only advantage was at the free throw line, a common theme for Auburn as the Eagles shot 65% from the charity strip while the Tigers shot 60%.
The return of first-year guard Chance Westry meant Auburn were close to full strength tonight, and while it may be a while before Westry is back to 100%, he still made an impact in as one of the team’s two impact freshmen. In limited action, 17 minutes, Westry scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field.
With Westry back in the lineup, Auburn’s rotation increases to 11, and the Tigers even played 12 tonight.
“It’s just that everyone knows their role. Having 11 guys like that is pretty deep. We can go in and out,” Westry said. “Nobody saves their energy for later in the game. The guys are playing their best.
Auburn’s roster continues to improve and freeze, with Broome doing his best since joining the orange and blue. With his five blocks, he led the team with 18 points and 13 rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
The Murray State transfer has struggled with an ankle injury, but he remains confident in what this team can do in the future.
“If we play our game, no one can beat us,” Broome said in the SEC Network postgame interview.
No. 13 Auburn continues its home stand with a Friday night game against Texas Southern (1-2). Tipping is due at 7:00 p.m. CST on ESPN+.
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