BROOKLYN, New York-Auburn (6-0) smothering defense and ball pressure from the start was the difference in the 84-59 victory over the New Mexico Lobos in the opening round of the Roman Legends Classic on Monday night at the Barclays Center in front of 6,812 hyped fans.
In the first half, the Badgers shot a dismal (10-32) 31.3 percent from the floor and (0-6) from beyond the arc. Wisconsin had a tough time getting in an offensive rhythm against the Tigers swarming defense.
Auburn will play the championship game on Tuesday evening when they will square off against the Richmond Spiders, who pulled away in the final minutes for a 62-52 victory over Wisconsin Badgers. New Mexico falls to 5-2 and will play Wisconsin in the consolation game at 5 p.m.
The Tigers forced 24 turnovers and turned those into 28 points while turning the ball over just 10 times in an up-tempo game which made the Badgers uncomfortable in the second half.
Tigers Samir Doughty led all scorers with 19 points as he hit 5-9 three-pointers beyond the arc while Auburn made 12-38 for the game.
“Defense won this game,” said Doughty, a senior guard, who noted the Tigers did a good job of stopping New Mexico star JaQuan Lyle, who was held to two points, 17 under his scoring average. Lyle made just 1-10 shots and was double-teamed most of the game.
The Tigers got helped from Austin Wiley who posted a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The center hit 6-8 field goals and was a force down low on the blocks. Joining him in double figures for scoring were Isaac Okoro with 12 and Anfernee McLemore chipped in 10 points.
New Mexico’s coach said Auburn’s speed and athleticism “is like nothing” his team had seen before, noting that the Tigers have improved significantly since the start of the season. “That is a magnificent team, by far the best we have seen this year,” Paul Weir said.
Auburn’s coach Bruce Pearl use 13 players and just wore the Badgers down completely. Auburn improved to 2-0 all-time vs. New Mexico, both in tournaments with Bruce Pearl as head coach.
Up Next: Auburn will play the Richmond Spiders in the championship game at 6:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPN2.