AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Wendell Green Jr. and Jabari Smith both had double-doubles and No. 12 Auburn beat Murray State 71-58 Wednesday night for its eighth straight win.
Auburn (11-1) held Murray State to 28 points below its season average and out-rebounded the Racers 48-33.
“Murray State is a really good offensive team, and we made it difficult for them to run their stuff,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
Green had 13 points and a career-best 10 rebounds off the bench for the Tigers. Smith had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. It was the first time Auburn had two different players record double-doubles since a season-opening overtime win over Saint Joseph’s last November.
Walker Kessler led the way for Auburn’s defense with a season-high seven blocks, giving him three straight games with at least four rejections. Kessler added 13 points and seven rebounds.
Tevin Brown keyed Murray State (10-2) with 22 points in a return to his home state. The rest of the Racers combined to make 11 of 41 shots from the field.
Auburn’s win was also marked by the season debut of Allen Flanigan, a preseason first-team All-SEC selection who missed the first 11 games due to an Achilles tendon injury. Flanigan had three points and four rebounds in nine minutes.
“It was fun seeing (Flanigan) going out there,” Kessler said. “He can make our team so much better, so it’s exciting.”
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Flanigan’s return and Green’s double-double headlined a big night for Auburn’s bench, which scored 32 points. Jaylin Williams, Smith’s backup, led the Tigers with nine first-half points.
Auburn’s depth was the difference. Seven different Tigers hit multiple shots from the field, and eight recorded at least one assist.
“When we go to our bench, we don’t drop off,” Pearl said. “That’s the key. We develop that bench and count on that bench. As long as the guys don’t care about their individual numbers ... we’ll be fine.”
FROM THE LOGO
Green has quickly developed a reputation for hitting deep 3-pointers at Auburn, but Wednesday featured his most memorable one yet.
Early in the second half, Green chased down a deflection into the backcourt. With the shot clock almost at zero, Green shot from two steps behind the half-court line and made it.
“I just lined myself up, and when it went in, I was just as shocked as everybody else,” Green said. “It was crazy.”
Murray State: The Racers have been one of the nation’s most efficient offenses this season, but they were held in check by a bigger and deeper power-conference opponent. They should be able to return to their high-scoring ways in Ohio Valley Conference play.
Auburn: Pearl challenged his team after it was out-rebounded by a large margin in its most recent win at Saint Louis. The Tigers answered that call against a physical Murray State team, which bodes well for their upcoming Southeastern Conference games.
“I’m pleased with the rebounding and pleased that the kids responded to the coaching because it was an issue for us,” Pearl said. “It just tells you that they’re listening.”
Murray State hosts Southeast Missouri State in its OVC opener next Thursday.
Auburn opens SEC play with a home game against LSU next Wednesday.
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