Auburn Athletics All season long, Bruce Pearl has called his Auburn team a good team, not a great team. On Saturday, Auburn started to look more like a great team.
The Tigers, ranked No. 5 nationally, routed rival Georgia, 82-60, in front of a sold-out crowd at Auburn Arena to stay undefeated on the season. The 22-point win marks the 13th 20-point win over Georgia in a series that dates back to 1906.
"It was a great win for our ball club," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Anytime you beat Georgia and you're coaching at Auburn, it matters."
Senior Samir Doughy led the way for the Tigers with 17 points, six rebounds and a team-high four assists, but it was the Auburn bench that made the biggest difference.
Down 14-6 early, senior Anfernee McLemore came off the bench and threw down a dunk that got the crowd engaged and changed the momentum of the game. Then, later in the half, Jamal Johnson and Allen Flanigan knocked down back-to-back 3s as part of a 17-1 run that put Auburn up 15. McLemore and Flanigan each finished with 12 points and six rebounds while Johnson chipped in six points.
"The bench was terrific," Pearl said. "It was probably the best the bench played. We got four 3s between Allen and Jamal. We got really good defensive rotations. When the bench starts to play like that, we have a chance to be a pretty good ball club."
Auburn scored 34 total points off the bench to Georgia' 13. For Flanigan, it was a career high in both points (12) and rebounds (6). The freshman was 5 of 6 from the floor.
"It feels great for me to be able to come off the bench and be really productive," Flanigan said. "The guys, they kept on giving me confidence."
It was also another strong game defensively for an Auburn team that came in allowing 66.7 points per game. The Tigers held Georgia to 60 points on 38 percent shooting from the field (19 of 50), and they forced 14 turnovers, which led to 15 Auburn points on the other end.
Anthony Edwards, Georgia's star freshman, finished with a game-high 18 points, but it didn't come easy for him. He shot 6 of 15 from the field, 2 of 9 from beyond the arc and scored only three points in the first half.
"The easiest answer (to defending Edwards) was Isaac Okoro," Pearl said. "They're both great players. Isaac impacts winning so much because he can do it on the offensive end and he's willing to do it on the defensive end. He likes it. I thought Allen Flanigan stepped up physically, also. We had two really good freshmen who know who Anthony Edwards is."
After closing the first half with a 35-24 lead, Auburn continued its assault at the beginning of the second half with an 11-3 run in the first three-and-a-half minutes. Senior Austin Wiley had four quick points, and Doughty scored seven of the team's first 19 points to start the half.
Later in the half, senior Danjel Purifoy put the final stamp on the victory when he drove down the middle of the lane and finished with a jaw-dropping one-handed slam.
Purifoy finished with seven points and a team-high eight rebounds. He was one of five Auburn players to pull down at least six or more rebounds, joining Wiley (7), Doughty (6), McLemore (6) and Flanigan (6) and helping the Tigers to a 41-33 advantage on the glass.
Auburn (15-0, 3-0), one of two unbeaten teams remaining in college basketball, will now travel to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday to face rival Alabama at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on ESPN2.