SEATTLE – Head coach Bruce Pearl has challenged his Auburn team to step up in recent weeks. The No. 23 Tigers responded to that challenge in a major way Wednesday night with an 84-61 road victory at Washington.
It was one of the best performances of the season for Auburn, who led wire-to-wire and shot 72 percent in the second half, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the SEC slate on deck.
“That was an important game for us,” Pearl said. “Obviously, losing Sunday to USC was disappointing, and it’s been a long trip. I thought the guys responded really well. I thought Steven Pearl and his team did an outstanding job on the scout. We were very prepared. We thought we had the advantage inside, and we went inside to Johni (Broome) and Jaylin (Williams) often.
“I told the guys before the game, ‘We’ve got to have this. We want to go to the NCAA Tournament, right? If we do, we’ve got to win games like this.'”
Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome led Auburn with 18 points apiece.
Williams helped Auburn get going early with back-to-back 3-pointers as part of a 14-0 run in the first half. Williams and company held Washington scoreless for more than five minutes during the run. The senior also pulled down eight rebounds, matching Broome for the team lead, and has now scored in double figures in five of his last eight games.
“I thought Jaylin Williams was the best player on the floor,” Pearl said. “He had the matchup with (Keion) Brooks, and he was able to shut him down, he made plays, and Jaylin’s inside-out ability really shined.”
Broome did most of his damage inside and scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, including dunks on back-to-back possessions. The Morehead State transfer was 7 of 8 from the floor over the final 20 minutes.
“I feel like the first half I was a little wild,” said Broome, who also added five assists. “I was trying to get too close to the basket instead of just trusting myself. In the second half, it really didn’t matter where the defense was. If I was able to get the shot off, I had the confidence in myself that it was going in.”
The closest Washington got in the second half was six points (39-33), and Auburn answered immediately with a 15-2 run. The Tigers went on another 20-6 run later in the half, making nine consecutive field goals at one point, and led by as many as 27.
Chris Moore and Wendell Green Jr. also scored in double figures. Moore had the Auburn’s first five points of the night with a putback in transition and a 3 from the corner. He finished with 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the floor. Green chipped in 11.
All 12 players who saw the floor scored for the Tigers on Wednesday night. Freshman point guard Tre Donaldson dished out a team-high seven assists.
The defensive effort was just as impressive as Auburn held Washington to just 36.8 percent shooting from the field for the game and 21.2 percent (7 of 33) in the first half. It was the second-worst shooting performance by an opponent this season.
“It was a really good road win against a Pac-12 club, and it was everybody,” Pearl said. “Our inside guys did great, our guards did great, we made shots, we defended. Our guys should feel good about the progress we made on this trip because I thought we played better at USC, too.”
The Tigers will return home from their West Coast trip and enjoy a week off before opening SEC play at home against Florida on Wednesday, Dec. 28.