Auburn basketball: Game grades in loss to UCF Knights

Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /

Auburn basketball fell to 1-2 in a Monday night loss to the UCF Knights in Orlando. The War Eagle dishes out grades to the Tigers.

It was an unfortunate and somewhat shocking result to see UCF hoops handle the Auburn basketball team with relative ease. The Knights ended at a slight favorite (-1) but ultimately was seen as a pick-em against the Tigers.

Of course, this is a topsy turvy season in every conceivable way for Bruce Pearl’s squad. Pearl admitted as much after the game–a disappointing 63-55 ending at the CFE Arena:

Sharife Cooper was supposed to be here. He was the only player seen as a top player in Busting Brackets’ preseason SEC player rankings, and for good reason, as Holden Walter-Warner points out:

"While Cooper is a good scorer, his best skill is his passing and he’s highly proficient at finding ways to get the ball to his teammates. Nevertheless, he’s going to need to score for an Auburn team returning very little from a year ago.None of the returning players from last year’s squad averaged even five points per game. No upperclassmen are expected to be in the starting lineup and Cooper is very unlikely to be the only freshman starting on opening night. While that brings a lot of scrutiny, it can also bring a lot of opportunity for Cooper."

We’re now living in a reality where the best player of the class is sitting out and the team has little to play for.

That leads to letdown games.

That said, there were redeeming qualities for these men, who are braving the pandemic storm and traveling across state lines to take on an AAC school in a major metro city with many travelers, despite the loss.

The War Eagle is here to highlight them:

Jamal Johnson’s game grade: A

The finest performance from Auburn basketball came from second-unit guard Jamal Johnson. He paced the Tigers in points with 18, staking claim to being the only player on Bruce Pearl’s squad to crack double digit points, knocking down a game-high five 3-pointers.

Johnson also chipped in five rebounds and two assists.

Justin Powell’s game grade: B+

While Justin Powell has yet to register a break-out game quite like his opening-night performance against St. Joseph’s, he had a solid showing across the board against UCF. His eight points, seven rebounds and three assists were timely if nothing else.

Allen Flanigan’s game grade: C-

Allen Flanigan was starting to establish himself as a go-to option on the floor for the Tigers this season with a lack of better options. Unfortunately, he was far from a go-to against the Knights, able to muster just three points on Monday night.

Jaylin Williams’ game grade: C

Jaylin Williams was unable to be much of a force for Auburn on Monday due to early foul trouble. Within the first four minutes, Williams already had two fouls assigned to him. While they were somewhat dubious calls, you still need to control yourself.

Williams can’t afford to spend much time off the floor this season considering the talent level the team is working with.

JT Thor’s game grade: C-

If UCF had their star junior center Collin Smith, I’m not quite sure how Auburn basketball would have been able to get stops down low. It was very disheartening to see how porous the defense was down-low, and JT Thor did little else on the other end to justify a better grade.

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