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Auburn v Vandy
Jabari Smith (10) Auburn vs Vanderbilt mob on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 in Auburn, AL . Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Smith's Big Scoring Night Helps Auburn Take Command of Vanderbilt

AUBURN, Alabama (EETV) – Jabari Smith and the No. 2 ranked Auburn Tigers won 94-80 against the Vanderbilt Commodores in an SEC Battle at Auburn Arena on Wednesday night. A career-high 31 points from Jabari Smith helps the Tigers outlast Scotty Pippen Jr.'s Vanderbilt squad.

Auburn improved its regular season record to 24-2. The Tigers are the top-ranked team in the SEC with Wednesday night’s win over Jerry Stackhouse’s Vanderbilt team.

Vanderbilt got out to a very quick start, opening the game with an 11-0 run. Vanderbilt Guard Scotty Pippen Jr. led the initial Vanderbilt push, scoring 11 points in the first half.

After this early first quarter Vanderbilt run, the Tigers climbed back into the game. The run was sparked by two threes from K.D. Johnson and Devan Cambridge to tie the game at 14.

The Commodore’s run wasn’t over, however. Back-to-back dunks with 11:40 remaining in the first half helped the Commodores keep momentum. Vanderbilt’s biggest first half lead was 11 points.

Auburn climbed its way back into the game once again, led by an end-of-the-half surge by Jabari Smith. Smith had 16 points on 5-9 shooting in the first half. He was backed in a major way by the NCAA’s leading shot blocker, Walker Kessler, who added 10 first half points. Kessler capped off the half with a big slam, which upped the Tiger’s lead to four points going into the 2nd half, 42-38 Auburn on top.

The second half was the Jabari Smith show for Auburn, and the Tigers seemed to never look back. Smith finished with 31 points for the game, a career high. He totaled a scorching hot 7-10 from behind the arc, with four of those seven coming in the second half.

Vanderbilt’s offense was powered by the dribble drive in the second half. The Commodores took the ball to the paint again and again, getting to the free throw line 32 times, and hitting 25. Pippen Jr. alone shot 14/16 from the line, while finishing with a team-high 29 points on the night.

A big night from Pippen Jr. could not stop Auburn’s frontcourt in the end. Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl said, “This frontcourt is the best frontcourt I’ve ever coached. Tobias Harris was really good at Tennessee… but this is the best I’ve ever had.”

That frontcourt was held down by AU forwards Walker Kessler and Dylan Cardwell. Kessler was very productive with 22 points, seven rebounds, and seven blocks. Today’s game marked the 12th time this season that Kessler has tallied five or more blocks in a game. In 13 minutes off the bench, Cardwell just had four points and three rebounds, but created opportunities for Wendell Green Jr. and K.D. Johnson to make plays on the perimeter.

Green Jr., who is averaging 12.7 points on the year, had an all-around performance tonight, with 12 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. At the other guard position, Johnson added seven points.

With Jabari Smith’s career best performance, supported by impactful play from Kessler and Auburn’s bench, the Tiger’s rolled to a winning finish.

Auburn’s next contest is on Saturday against the Florida Gators in Gainesville at 1:00pm CT on ESPN.