AUBURN –– Getting back on track after its first pair of consecutive losses the previous week, No. 12 Auburn University men’s basketball (18-4) completed a pair of season sweeps with two double-digit wins over conference foes last week.
The Tigers rose four spots in Monday’s AP Poll after dominating at home versus Vanderbilt on Wednesday and getting its first Quadrant 1 win of the season at Ole Miss on Saturday. At 7-2 in conference play, Auburn is tied with South Carolina for second in the SEC, sitting just behind 8-1 Alabama ahead of a rematch with the Tide in Neville Arena on Wednesday.
“We took a step forward tonight… That’s the best win of the year for us,” said head coach Bruce Pearl after the win over Ole Miss. “We’ll see if we can take another step on Wednesday when we play the first-place team. We’ll be playing for first place (in the SEC) in February. That’s good.”
Following are some highlights from Auburn’s two most recent wins.
Wednesday, Jan. 31:
Auburn 81 — Vanderbilt 54
Auburn completed a season sweep of Vanderbilt to stay undefeated in 11 games in Neville Arena this season.
It was a much-needed bounce back, team win for Auburn after losing both of its games the previ-ous week. The Tigers made 10 3-pointers — the most they’ve made in a game since they splashed 10 versus LSU five games prior. Auburn dominated the glass, hauling in 45 rebounds to Vander-bilt’s 34, and topped 20 assists (21) for the first time since it played LSU.
This season’s two wins over Vanderbilt came by a combined 32 points, as Jaylin Williams’ efficient scoring paired with a pair of double-doubles from Johni Broome taunted the Commodores, who remain winless in conference play.
After shooting a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor the first time against Vanderbilt, Williams shot 7-for-9, making 3-of-4 3-point attempts to lead the Tigers with 21 points. His sixth game of the sea-son with 20 points or more was accompanied by three other double-figure scorers for Auburn.
Continuing to prove returning for his senior season was a wise decision, Broome dropped his ninth double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. After the game, he led the SEC outright with 184 rebounds. With five blocks on the night, he also ranked second in the league with 47 blocks and ninth with 15.7 points per game. He even splashed both of his 3-point shots to give him a career-high 13 makes for the season from beyond the arch.
Returning to the same starting lineup Auburn played in the season opener certainly appealed to Denver Jones, who splashed three deep balls before the game hit the four-minute mark and finished with a season-high 19 points on 4-of-8 on threes. Off the bench, Chad Baker-Mazara rounded out the Tiger double-digit scorers with 11 points along with five rebounds and four assists.
Despite the team’s bounce-back performance, Aden Holloway’s struggles continued. The freshman shot 0-for-5, all on 3-pointers, with one point in a season-low 15 minutes on the court. The forgettable performance made him 2-for-20 with 10 points with no made threes in his last three games.
However, Auburn didn’t need much from the slumping guard in his second consecutive game coming off the bench. Auburn held Vandy to 26.8% shooting from the floor and limited its top scorer, Ezra Manjon, to five points as Auburn led the entire game after Broome’s dunk to open the scoring 40 seconds in.
Auburn got its sixth SEC win of the season and denied Vanderbilt of its first to put its losing skid in the past.
Saturday, Feb. 3:
Auburn 91, Ole Miss 77
Auburn got its sixth consecutive win over Ole Miss (18-4), using a second-half surge to quiet the Rebels in a rematch on the road.
When Auburn trailed by nine at halftime, Broome was shooting 0-for-4 with zero points. He then made his next seven shots as Auburn tallied one of its most complete offensive performances of the season to outscore the Rebels by 23 in the second half.
After shooting a season-high 58.2% two weeks ago against Ole Miss, Auburn shot 54.7% from the floor to accumulate 90 points for the first time in a road game this season. Auburn also built on its 10 threes on Wednesday with 12 splashes from deep — a season record in SEC play.
25 assists fed a team that was firing on all cylinders. Six different Tigers scored in double figures, while Auburn previously hadn’t had more than four such scorers in SEC competition, and the Tigers only had just two in both conference losses.
With 16 points, Williams led the team in scoring for the second straight game, Broome and Baker-Mazara matched each other with 15, Jones and K.D. Johnson matched each other with 11, and Tre Donaldson put up 10 in his third straight start. Baker-Mazara hit a team-best three 3-pointers and hauled in nine rebounds, and Broome led the team with seven assists and hit a three for the fifth straight game for the first time in his career.
Despite matching 15 minutes on the court from his previous game, Holloway scored six points and hit one three after missing all five of his attempts on Wednesday. With his third straight game coming off the bench, the freshman looks destined for a decreased role down the stretch as Jones and Donaldson continue to thrive as starters.
Even in his decreased role, Holloway contributed to a 36-point performance from the bench opposed to just eight total bench points from Ole Miss. This resulted in the Rebels running out of steam while the Tigers accelerated through the finish line for its first Quadrant 1 win of the season.
Highlight reel dunks were plenty, and physicality was crucial down the stretch as Auburn made a statement ahead of its return to Neville Arena for a rematch with Alabama (16-6) at 6 p.m. CST on Wednesday.