AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) -- As Auburn soccer, volleyball, and football near the end of their seasons, Auburn basketball held its first home exhibition Wednesday night to kick off their 2023-24 campaign, and it's safe to say it was a huge success, as the Tigers won 102-66 in commanding fashion.
However, this game was bittersweet due to the uncertainty that lies around Auburn's star center and All-SEC Preseason First Team player, Johni Broome. Broome went down just over two minutes into the game and immediately headed back to the locker room. After the game, Coach Pearl said that he has "a pinch in his rotator cuff" and he expects Broome to be back soon. However, if this injury is longer than expected, it is a huge blow for the Tigers. Broome was Auburn's leader in points (14.2), rebounds (8.4), and blocks (2.4) last season.
Aden Holloway also didn't play tonight against UAM due to a tweaked ankle he suffered against Furman earlier this week. Coach Pearl believes that Holloway will be back for Auburn's season opener.
A key storyline from this game was the talent Bruce Pearl picked up in the transfer portal. Auburn's top three scorers tonight were all players that were landed in the transfer portal, including Denver Jones (18 points), Chad Baker-Mazara (15 points), and Chaney Johnson (14 points). Jones manned the point guard position tonight some in place of Holloway, and he even admitted postgame that he did not begin playing point guard until his senior year of high school. However, Coach Pearl made sure to note postgame of how proud he was of Jones.
Another big storyline from this game was Auburn's disappointing three-point performance. Denver Jones carried the Tigers with his three-point shooting, connecting on 50% of his shots from beyond the arc (4/8). Jones said, "Ever since I first got here, he (Coach Pearl) told me to shoot the ball," and that paid off tonight. Besides Jones, however, only ONE other Tiger hit a three-pointer throughout the entire game, which was KD Johnson. Overall, Auburn went 5-25 from three, an abysmal 20%.
The game remained close throughout the first half, with AU-Montgomery being up 16-15 midway through the first half. Auburn followed this disappointing start with a huge 23-2 run coming out of a timeout and gained a 38-18 lead. From there, Auburn never lost the lead.
Defensive prowess from the Tigers led this run. Dylan Cardwell was a defensive anchor for the Tigers, finishing with 10 rebounds on the night and four steals. Bruce Pearl bragged about Cardwell's performance postgame, pointing out the immense improvements he's made on his free throws and the defensive end.
Tonight's game was a testament to the depth this year's Auburn roster has, with Coach Pearl even claiming that they can go "eleven guys deep when fully healthy." No Tiger recorded more than 22 minutes tonight, and every Tiger that dressed saw the court tonight. Auburn's bench outscored the AUM bench 58 to 10.
Other points of emphasis for the Tigers tonight include the 23 turnovers they forced against AUM, 17 of which were steals. This led to 27 fastbreak points. Auburn also dominated the paint, scoring 50 of the 102 points down low.
Auburn will be back in action next Tuesday against Baylor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in a game that will be a far bigger test than AU-Montgomery. That game will air on ESPN at 8 P.M. CT.