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Jan 12, 2024 1:07 pm

No. 16 Auburn, LSU showdown matches SEC unbeatens

LSU and Auburn won their first two SEC games.

That’s a big deal for LSU, which won just two conference games all of last season and is 2-0 in conference play for the first time in four seasons.

It’s not as a big a deal for No. 16 Auburn (13-2).

The Tigers entered the season with high expectations and is reaching them with eight consecutive wins as it hosts LSU on Saturday.

“This has been one of the hardest working teams that I’ve had,” Pearl said. “We’ve put ourselves in position. We’ve got work to do.”

Auburn defeated visiting Texas A&M 66-55 on Tuesday night. Auburn held the Aggies without a field goal during the final nine minutes. The baskets were hard to come by for Auburn as well, but Jaylin Williams came through with the only two baskets in the game during the final eight minutes.

Williams made a layup to complete an 8-0 run that gave Auburn a 54-48 lead with 5:45 to play. He added a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 62-55 with 52 seconds left.

“That’s one of the biggest shots of my career,” Williams said of the 3-pointer, which was part of a game-high, 22-point night. “I practice that shot all the time. I had confidence in that one.”

Auburn forced 19 turnovers and held A&M’s leading scorer, Wade Taylor IV, to eight points on 2-of-16 shooting and 0-for-8 on 3-point attempts.

“I challenged my guards,” Pearl said. “I thought our guards did a tremendous job defensively. If we can continue to guard and get a little bit of offense from our defense, that’s going to be the key to being consistently able to win each night.”

LSU (10-5) also used its defense as a key factor in its most recent game – a 77-69 home victory against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. It held Vanderbilt to 25.9 percent (7-of-27) on 3-point shooting.

“I thought our effort on the defensive side of the ball was terrific,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. “We won the turnover battle.”

LSU outscored the Commodores on points off turnovers (18-7) and had its eighth game of the season with double-digits steals, finishing with 11.

The defensive effort enabled the Tigers to overcome an uneven offensive performance. They made just 3 of 16 3-point attempts (18.8 percent) and shot 42.2 percent from the floor (27 of 64).

“Obviously, I would have liked to have been a little more efficient on the offensive side of the basketball,” McMahon said. “Ultimately, the goal is to win.”

LSU held on for the win by shooting a season-best 87.0 percent on free throws (20 of 23), including 10 of 11 down the stretch as Vanderbilt kept fouling to try and catch up.

“We know how important it is to build momentum in this league,” guard Jordan Wright said. “Getting off to a good start is a great way to build momentum and confidence and put the league on notice. We want to come out, play tough, and stack wins together.”

–Field Level Media

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