Auburn, Alabama – The Auburn Tigers defeated the Georgia Southern Eagles 83-74 to open the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season. The Tigers survived 22 turnovers and several lead changes to win a game that was closer than the final score indicates.
Head Coach Bruce Pearl led his Auburn Tigers into their first game following a Final Four appearance with a drastically different roster. The Tigers return five players and add eight newcomers. Samir Doughty (6-4) led Auburn with 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals, shooting 60 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. He also went 7-for-9 from the free throw line, and sealed the game late, with five points coming in the final 1:09. He played primarily on the wing last season, but split his time in a combo guard role tonight, and spent several minutes running the offense. He excelled driving to both his right and left to the basket, particularly in the second half.
Auburn senior point guard J’Von McComick (6-0) also found a clear path late, scoring seven of his nine points in the final five minutes if the game. McComick struggled with ball control for much of the first half. Seniors Danjel Purifoy (6-7) and Austin Wiley (6-11) each added 13 points. Purifoy shot 3-for 7 from 3 and showed ability to both drive to the basket and post up, skills that had been lacking in his offensive game last season. Wiley grabbed nine rebounds for Auburn, but struggled at times defensively and with turnovers. Auburn’s] five-star freshman Isaac Okoro chipped in 12 points and was nearly unstoppable around the rim in the second half.
Georgia Southern was led by senior guard Ike Smith (6-4), with 18 points and senior forward Isaiah Crowley (6-7), who contributed 16 points and six rebounds, despite playing with foul trouble. Smith, who was granted a medical redshirt and is playing in his fifth season with the Eagles, didn’t show any sign of the back injury that sidelined him last season. Crowley was a difficult match-up for Wiley, using his quickness and positioning to get several close looks, including a couple of momentum shifting dunks in the second half.
Auburn (1-0) travels to Annapolis to take on Davidson on Friday, as a part of the Veterans Classic. Georgia Southern (0-1) opens its home schedule Friday against NAIA opponent Reinhardt.