Though Auburn football is all the talk with the approaching SEC Championship game, Bruce Pearl’s basketball team played an important game in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday night.
The Dayton Flyers have had an outstanding run under head coach Archie Miller, dancing in the NCAA Tournament for the last four years. In 2016-17, Dayton (24-8) lost in the first round to Wichita State.
The Atlantic 10 is a basketball conference, and Dayton is a top A-10 program. This was another example of Pearl’s ability to schedule tough non-conference opponents. Auburn was looking for a win that could help them in the months to come, and that’s exactly what they got with a 73-60 victory to finish off the month of November.
Here are the three key points to take away from Auburn’s win over Dayton (The Tigers will return to action Sunday afternoon against George Mason 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT).
Patience is a virtue
Early in the game it seemed Auburn was a little disorganized. The shot selection wasn’t great and often it was a case where there would be one pass and a quick shot (which is the absolute worst).
Players like Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper have the ability to play with urgency without forcing bad shots. Those two in particular are going to have to find a balance in that regard as SEC play nears.
Auburn hasn’t had much trouble scoring since it had a class of talented freshmen arrive on The Plains, but no team (even the NBA teams stacked with the most talent in the world) is a good group when they’re passing once and ripping shots.
Not only does it hurt your shooting percentage, but it leaves bigs and rebounding guards out of position — and Auburn cannot give opponents an advantage on the boards.
This Auburn team may not always start hot, but it can’t force scoring opportunities. Patience, penetration and ball movement will pay off.
Tigers can depend on Chuma Okeke
It’s no secret that Chuma Okeke is going to be a fantastic player for Auburn. He has loads of potential and hasn’t seemed timid in his first games as a Tiger. That’s a very good thing because sophomore Mustapha Heron, who totaled 21 points and 7 rebounds in Ohio, needs the newcomer to help him out.
Okeke was a primary scoring threat for Auburn early, dropping in 13 points. He also pursued rebounds and was a calming presence for the Tigers.
The freshman finished the night with a career-high 15 points and 8 rebounds. He was efficient and kept Auburn in the game in the first half, which is important for a team that has been prone to collapse in the second half.
Without Okeke, who recorded the highest plus-minus rating on the night, it’s tough to see Auburn basketball coming away with its first-ever win over Dayton.
Auburn can’t relax (ever!)
Auburn had a 66-51 lead with just about four minutes to go, but the Tigers couldn’t quite hold on to it. Bruce Pearl’s team allowed the Flyers to go on a 7-0 run, a similar second-half song and dance.
It felt like previous Auburn games where the group on the floor kind of crumbled under pressure. But the Tigers didn’t thanks largely to sophomore Anfernee McLemore.
McLemore came up with a tremendous block with about a minute and a half to go (it was one of his five blocks against Dayton). It was an important moment where Auburn kind of caught its breath and regained its composure.
In the future sophomore point guard Jared Harper needs to be prepared to play even more minutes and needs to take responsibility for his team letting up late in competitive games.
Though Dayton may not be the force it has been in the A-10 in recent years in the coming season, the Flyers are a talented, well-coached group. Pearl’s team, with everything going on off the court, stayed focused and earned a signifiant mid-week win.
The post The 3-pointer: What we learned from Auburn basketball’s win over Dayton appeared first on SEC Country.
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