South Alabama prepared to welcome No. 22 Auburn
After holding Davidson's top two returning scorers to just a combined 13 points in last week's 76-66 victory, Auburn will face a potential 30-point scoring threat when the No. 22 Tigers take on host South Alabama on Tuesday night in Mobile, Ala.
Veteran forward Josh Ajayi is the leading returning scorer for the Jaguars (2-0) and nearly doubled his 16.4 scoring average from 2018-19 with a career-high 30 points in the Jags' 75-69 victory over Southern Mississippi in their last outing. He was 10-of-14 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds to raise his season totals to 43 points and 20 rebounds in two games.
"Ajayi has really improved where he can step out on the perimeter and attack you," South Alabama coach Richie Riley said, "So we have five guys that handle the ball, which makes it tough.
"I think we will see a lot of zone this year and we've been preparing for it in practice. I think we will see a lot of it because it's hard to play against us man-to-man with the guys we got and their ability to take it off the bounce."
Auburn could be up to that challenge, however. Behind the defensive play of guards J'Von McCormick and Samir Doughty and forward Isaac Okoro, the Tigers (2-0) held Davidson's Jon Axel Gudmundsson to seven points and Kellan Grady to six, far below their last season's averages of 16.9 and 17.3, respectively.
"I said earlier in the season I thought that J'Von, Samir and Isaac could be a really strong defensive backcourt, and they showed that obviously tonight," Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said.
Okoro quickly validated his billing as Auburn's top newcomer by scoring a team-high 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He got his night started by knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game.
"I knew once my first shot went down that it was going to be a pretty good game for me," Okoro said. "That 3-pointer really gave me confidence for the whole game. Everybody hitting their shots to start the game really gave us a boost in the start."
Auburn led all the way but needed some big plays from senior forward Anfernee McLemore in the final minutes to secure the win. McLemore had a key block that led to McCormick's layup, slammed home a dunk after taking a key charge, and later converted a layup that gave the Tigers a 74-66 cushion with 39 seconds left in the game.
"He gives us a great dimension, a great rim protector," Pearl said. "He had monster athletic blocks."
McLemore was one of five Tigers in double figures with 12 points and added a team-high three blocks.
Coming off a 17-17 season, South Alabama will be the second Auburn opponent that returns all five starters, but backcourt transfers Andre Fox (High Point) and Don Coleman (California) have started the first two games. Fox scored 16 points and Coleman had four against Southern Mississippi.
--Field Level Media