After playing five games in 13 days to open the season, No. 19 Auburn will take on New Mexico on Monday having had a week between games.
The matchup will be the nightcap of the Roman Legends Classic doubleheader in Brooklyn. Wisconsin and Richmond play the opener at the Barclays Center, with the consolation and final set for Tuesday.
The Tigers (5-0) are coming off two impressive performances, having routed Cal State-Northridge 116-70 and Colgate 91-62 at home in their last two games. The Tigers shot a combined 55.0 percent from the field and 42.9 from 3-point range while holding the Matadors and Raiders to a combined 36.9/30.2 percent.
Senior guard Samir Doughty scored a combined 53 points in those two games, with a career-high 33 against Northridge. His backcourt mate, senior J’Von McCormick, set a school record with 16 assists against Northridge and had eight more against Colgate.
Doughty is averaging 18.8 points a game for the season. Freshman forward Isaac Okoro has been in double figures every game for his 14.2 average. He had the decisive basket in the hard-fought 70-69 win at South Alabama that preceded the two romps.
“To be able to finish these five games and be where we are — and to see us get better because we have gotten better — is very encouraging,” coach Bruce Pearl said.
But he also noted that despite the final 29-point margin, Colgate outscored the Tigers 41-38 in the second half.
“Our bench needs to play better in order for us to grow,” Pearl said. “We’ve got to be more physical.”
New Mexico (5-1) earned a 78-77 win at New Mexico State in its last outing, bouncing back from a 66-63 loss at Texas-El Paso, which ended a five-game losing streak in the series with their instate rivals.
The Lobos have five players scoring in double figures, led by senior guard JaQuan Lyle, a transfer from Ohio State who missed last season because of an Achilles injury. He has averaged 19.8 points and shot 43.8 percent from behind the arc. He scored 24 in the win over New Mexico State.
The Lobos have shot 51.5 percent overall and 34.8 percent from long range, but coach Paul Weir has preached the need for defense all fall and re-emphasized the point after the win over the Aggies.
“I think we’ll be a good offensive basketball team,” he said. “We have the ability, the talent and, hopefully, the patience to be good. But defensively is where we had to dig in.”
He added that his team has “passed a lot of tests” in its last two games, both of them on the road. But their impact on the season can’t be determined until the end of the season.
“Unfortunately, we’re only gonna be as good as our next one,” he said. “We have to get ready for Auburn. We have to go to New York on another road trip and go out and compete as best we can.”
–Field Level Media