Auburn beats Vanderbilt behind Okoro’s breakout game

Auburn beat Vanderbilt 83-79 Jan. 8 after fighting off a late game comeback.

Despite being an exciting game, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro stole the show as he reached his season high in points and threw in a Sports Center Top 10 play that seemed like it ended the game far before the game was over.

Auburn stayed undefeated, but Okoro’s breakout game seemed just as significant. He finished the night with 23 points while shooting 67 percent from the field, 100 percent from three and 71.4 percent from the free throw line.

Okoro and Samir Doughty weren’t able to shut down Vanderbilt’s duo of Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee, but Auburn still played great defense at times.

Okoro’s performance was important not only because it helped Auburn win the game, but because the knock against the freshman wing has been his lack of scoring.

Okoro already comes in at No. 14 in Sports Illustrated’s most recent 2020 mock draft, and he could rise even higher with more performance’s like he had against Vanderbilt.

In fact, Okoro was mocked as the No. 4 overall pick by SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell the day after the Vanderbilt game.

While Okoro only made one three, he made multiple impressive drives to the basket, finished a few and-ones and had an all-around good game. Okoro also made a few great passes out of drives that resulted in missed shots, or he would have added a few more assists to his stat line.

He might not be a shooter, but Okoro is proving that he can be one of the best players on both sides of the court if his team is willing to mold some Okoro-specific plays around him and use him in “unconventional” ways, such as finding him post-ups and isolation opportunities.

Auburn seems like it has a much higher ceiling when Okoro plays like he did against Vanderbilt.

The Tigers’ backcourt had an off night. After combining for 43 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals against Mississippi State Jan. 4, Doughty and J’Von McCormick combined for just 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and zero steals against Vanderbilt.

Yet, Auburn overcame the bad shooting night for its backcourt thanks to Okoro’s offense, Danjel Purifoy’s defense and Austin Wiley’s free throw shooting. Those are three things I didn’t think I’d be writing in January. (CC: @JonRothstein)

In addition to the surprises, Anfernee McLemore scored 14 points in 17 minutes off the bench, after Auburn’s bench scored just two points at Mississippi State.

Okoro was the game’s MVP according to KenPom and posted an offensive rating of 139. Second to only McLemore’s 178 offensive rating and right above Wiley’s 137 offensive rating.

Auburn will be in action again Jan. 11 when it hosts Georgia for a rivalry game on ESPN at  6 p.m.

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