Freshman New Williams (above) launches a shot for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Playing without three guards they were counting on heading into the season it was a mixed bag of lineups all night for the Auburn Tigers in the basketball exhibition opener against Brevard College as Bruce Pearl’s team cruised to a 99-59 win on Friday night.
Shooting 47.9 percent from the floor and outrebounding its opponent 53-33, Auburn finished with 24 assists and just 10 turnovers on a night when Pearl said he wasn’t sure what he would get out of his team.
“The team that was prepared to play this week looked a lot different than the team we had out there,” Pearl said. “It was kind of an incredible week.”
Without Tahj Shamsid-Deen (shoulder injury), T.J. Lang (knee sprain) and Bryce Brown (sore back) the Tigers turned to a different group of guards to get the job done and they delivered in a big way.
Connecting on 5-12 shots from the floor, Kareem Canty scored 16 points without a turnover in 27 minutes while freshman New Williams came off the bench to 16 points as well as he showed his perimeter ability, knocking down 4-6 shots from behind the arc in the win. While Canty was expected to be a scorer for Auburn, Williams’ production was somewhat of a surprise for the Tigers but Pearl said it was good to see and needed.
“New Williams was probably not going to be in the rotation had we been healthy,” Pearl said. “He can obviously shoot the basketball. The fact that they played a lot of zone, I think, helped.”
The surprise of the night came from walk-on guard Zach Allison. Nicknamed “Sunshine” by Pearl and his teammates, Allison scored six points but led the team with eight assists and turned the ball over just two times in 24 minutes. It was a performance that probably came as a surprise to many, but don’t count Pearl in that category.
“Obviously, Zach Alilson has to play,” Pearl said. “When I watched him play at Pelham High School last year I saw something. I saw a little swag. I saw those goldilocks, I saw a little Ronnie Bass (character from the movie Remember the Titans)in him, a little sunshine. He did a really nice job, seven assists, to lead us in assists is pretty good for a walk-on freshman.”
Picking up where he left off last season Cinmeon Bowers was impressive out of the gate for Auburn. Scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, Bowers showed off his quickness against an outmanned team from Brevard. Playing in his first game for the Tigers after transferring from Providence College, senior big man Tyler Harris had a solid 14 point, eight rebound night in the paint as the Tigers dominated the action inside.
Cinmeon Bowers goes up for the jam.
Never trailing in the game after a slow start that saw the Tigers lead just 9-7 five minutes in, Auburn went on a 15-0 run over the next four minutes to put the game away early. Led by 13 first half points from Canty and a 15-0 advantage on second chance points, Auburn raced out to a 30-point lead at intermission after connecting on six three-pointers including three from Canty himself.
From that point forward it was cruise control for the Tigers as the closest Brevard would get was 27 points with just over 13 minutes left in the game. Auburn would go on another run, this one 11-2 over the span of just two minutes, to put the finishing touches on the victory.
The only drama came late as Pearl emptied the bench to allow his walk-ons a chance to see some playing time. Leading 91-56 with two minutes left Auburn got a three-point basket from Allison to start a late flurry and push for the century mark. Another three, this one from Cole Stockton, made it 97-56 Tigers before he added a layup to make it 99-56. Brevard’s Evan Dunham drained a long jumper to make it a 40-point lead, but that’s how things would end as Pearl called for his team to hold the ball and run the time out.
Auburn returns to action Thursday night at 6 p.m. against University of Indianapolis at Auburn Arena.