Auburn, Ala. (EETV) No. 13 Auburn faced its first true road contest against the Saint Louis Billikens in Chaifetz Arena. Walker Kessler set a career-high 19 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double. The Tigers rallied late in the second half to pull away with a 74-70 victory.
Both teams struggled offensively as the first 20 minutes were filled with turnovers and missed shots. Walker Kessler caught a pass from Wendell Green Jr. at the 9:56 mark and the score was only 14-all.
Auburn held Saint Louis without a 3-pointer until the 13:25 point in the second half. The Billikens were 4-of-17 from behind the arc and most of their points came from free throws (16-24). The Tigers had 21 fouls collectively, including a technical foul on head coach Bruce Pearl.
7-foot-1 forward Walker Kessler had four blocks and was also responsible for two crucial free throws to keep Auburn in the game with 3:11 remaining. Kessler came into the game averaging 3.3 blocks per game and 50% free throw shooting.
"I would've killed him if he would've missed one of them", Bruce Pearl jokingly said.
The Tigers struggled to compete on the boards as they were outrebounded 46-27. They also shot 9-15 (60%) from the foul line, which was slightly less than the Billikens (66.7%).
Auburn's Jabari Smith moved up to the nation's No.1 draft pick this week and his performance was nothing less. Smith had 13 points and four rebounds, including shooting 3-of-5 3-pointers. One of his 3-pointers came at the 6:51 mark which allowed his team to go on a 13-4 run to get within two. The Tigers made eight out of their last ten shots, including a go-ahead layup by K.D. Johnson with nine seconds remaining.
Auburn returns home to host Murray State on Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. CT and then starts SEC play against No. 19 LSU on Dec. 29 at 6.pm. CT. The Racers are currently No.1 in the Ohio Valley Conference (10-1) and undefeated in road contests (2-0).