Birmingham, Ala (EETV)- Twelfth ranked Auburn traveled up Highway 280 to Birmingham for the 2nd annual Mike Slive Invitational as the Tigers took on the Saint Louis Billikens.
The Tigers (9-0) sit atop the SEC while the Billikens (8-2) are perched among the best in the Atlantic 10 conference.
Auburn held Saint Louis, a team who averages nearly 74 points per game, to just 61 on 25-66 shooting as a team while scoring 67 of their own and stretching their unbeaten record to 9-0.
Head Coach Bruce Pearl said, “That was a very physical game, if we play other teams in the SEC that are that physical, we could get exposed again, there are some things that got exposed tonight."
“But, they didn’t get exposed to the point we couldn’t beat a good basketball team,” Pearl said.
Saint Louis came out firing as they jumped out to an 9-0 lead just four minutes into the contest before Danjel Purifoy got Auburn on the board with a defensive rebound and a coast-to-coast drive to the basket.
Auburn battled back early as J’Von McCormick hit back to back threes to help knot the two teams at nine.
The teams traded baskets during the first half with the biggest lead being Auburn by 7 with just over one-minute left.
The fans in Legacy Arena got a taste of the J’Von McCormick show early on after his back to back threes in the first ten minutes, but the real show started when the first half was closing.
McCormick had 12 points at intermission on 4-8 shooting from the field and 3-5 from beyond the arc. He led Auburn in points and rebounds as the Tigers headed into the locker room with a seven-point lead.
The second half was much of the same for McCormick as he came out firing with seven points within the first seven minutes.
“J’Von McCormick was the best player on the floor,” Pearl said. “J’Von rather than just simply defending, he defends, he gets the 50-50 ball and then makes the play at both ends of the floor.”
McCormick would go on to finish with a statline of 20 points on 7-14 shooting, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
“We knew coming into the game that I would need to be more aggressive offensively and defensively, so first possession I just tried to be more aggressive,” McCormick said. “Knowing that Jared left, people thought there would be a drop off and I just wanted to show there’s not a drop off when he leaves.”
“We pride ourselves on defense, Isaac [Okoro}, Samir [Doughty] and myself, we try to be the best backcourt in the SEC so we pride ourselves on defense and rebounding,” McCormick said.
Auburn heads home and gets a few days rest as their next contest will be against North Carolina State on Thursday, Dec. 19 at Auburn Arena on ESPN2.