AUBURN, Ala. – For the first 20 minutes, a talented Texas Southern team gave Auburn all it could handle Tuesday night. But the home Tigers clamped down on the defensive end in the second half and went on an 18-2 run to pull away for an 80-63 win inside Auburn Arena.
“I thought we played well,” head coach Bruce Pearl said. “People will point to the second half where the outcome was better. I thought offensively we were good throughout the night. To only have nine turnovers and score 80 points, I think that’s a real positive.”
For the second straight game, it was the trio of Allen Flanigan, Justin Powell and Jaylin Williams who stepped up and led the way for Auburn. After combining to score 52 points in Saturday’s win against Memphis, they combined for 48 points in Tuesday’s game.
Flanigan scored a game-high 18 points with 15 coming in the second half. During Auburn’s 18-2 run, the sophomore made 3 the hard way twice, converting two baskets inside while drawing the foul, and then capped the run with a crossover, step-back 3 as the shot clock was running down to put the Tigers ahead 61-46. Flanigan has now scored in double figures in five of Auburn’s six games.
Powell and Williams also finished in double figures Tuesday night with 15 points apiece.
Powell, the SEC Freshman Player of the Week, filled up the stat sheet as he tied for the team lead with seven rebounds and also dished out a team-high six assists. Through the first six games, he leads the team in all three major categories.
Williams put Auburn on the board first with a bucket on the game’s opening possession. A few minutes later, the sophomore threw down an alley-oop drunk from Powell to finish off a fastbreak. Powell fed Williams again for another slam in the second half. Williams also chipped in six rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
The Auburn trio shot a combined 18 of 35 from the floor and only turned it over five times. As a team, the nine turnovers committed were a season low for the Tigers.
It was a breakout game of sorts for freshman JT Thor who was everywhere in the first five minutes. He grabbed three offensive rebounds. His steal led to the alley-oop dunk from Williams. He had a block, which led to a 3 in transition from Flanigan. And he blew past his defender and threw down a nasty one-handed dunk with his left hand.
Thor finished the night with seven points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Fellow freshman Dylan Cardwell also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds and provided the Tigers with a boost of energy off the bench in the second half.
“The big three of Jaylin Williams, Allen Flanigan and Justin Powell all played really well,” Pearl said. “But the key for our team is when JT Thor does what he does tonight. Three steals and five offensive rebounds. You could see how popular of a player JT is because when he started flying around and making plays, the whole bench just lit up like crazy.
“Or the effort and energy of Dylan Cardwell. Dylan played with such passion and got excited about some defensive rebounds and blocking a shot and getting a stop, and I love the fact that he’s showing his emotion. I was really pleased with that.”
The victory made it 31 in a row over non-conference opponents inside Auburn Arena. The Tigers will be back home this Saturday to face Troy at 1 p.m. CT.