An early onslaught of 3-pointers helped No. 16 Auburn defeat Iowa State 80-76 Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, the Tigers’ 14th consecutive victory at sold-out Auburn Arena.
“For Auburn to hold serve at home, we were the home team here, we were supposed to win this one; we did,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “That matters a lot to me that Auburn’s not holding the league down any longer in men’s basketball.”
Isaac Okoro went 5-for-6 in the second half, scoring 14 of his team-high 19 points to help Auburn maintain a double-digit lead until a late 10-0 Iowa State run.
“My teammates were getting me the ball, Samir, in transition, just finding me, getting me open shots,” Okoro said. “Being aggressive, going to the rim and trying to get to the free-throw line.”
“Isaac Okoro is still the nightmare matchup inside and out,” Pearl said.
“Everybody wanted the ball in his hands,” said Samir Doughty, who scored 18. “When one of our players is hot, we’re going to get him the basketball, and he was rolling at the time.”
J’Von McCormick and Danjel Purifoy each scored 11.
“I thought J’Von, Samir and Isaac did a really good job getting downhill, getting to the rim and turning corners,” Pearl said. “That’s a big part of our offense, and I thought we finished at the rim better today.”
Anfernee McLemore led the 3-point barrage with a trio of first-half 3s to help Auburn take a 42-31 lead. Six Tigers combined for nine first-half 3-pointers. Auburn added one 3-pointer in the second half, shooting 10-for-28 from behind the line for the game.
“It was great to see Danjel get comfortable,” Pearl said. “When Anfernee McLemore’s making shots, things really open up for us offensively. You have two bigs make six 3s, I don’t care what you’re running, your offense is going to run better.”
After Purifoy’s 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the half, Pearl turned and waved his arms at fans behind him, asking for and receiving more noise in a successful bid to disrupt the Cyclones’ final possession.
Active at both ends of the court, McLemore blocked three shots, including one that negated an Iowa State fast break, leading to Purifoy’s 3-pointer and a 16-point Auburn lead at the 15:04 mark of the second half.
Austin Wiley led Auburn with nine rebounds. Doughty and Purifoy each had six. Doughty also led Auburn with five assists. Auburn held Iowa State to 25-of-69 shooting, including 7 of 27 on 3-pointers.
“To hold a good offensive team to 36 percent is solid,” Pearl said. “That’s how you win.”
The Tigers have won 42 of their last 45 home games, dating back to the home finale of the 2016-17 season.
Auburn (17-2, 4-2) resumes SEC play Tuesday at Ole Miss at 8 p.m. CT on ESPNU and the Auburn Sports Network.
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