Auburn basketball: Game grades for home-opening victory vs. South Alabama

Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports /

Auburn basketball kicked off the pandemic season in front of actual fans at the Plains with a 90-81 victory over South Alabama.

The Auburn Arena played host to Auburn basketball taking down the South Alabama Jaguars on Friday night, and seeing Tigers faithful on the Plains was truly a delight. All too often, the doom and gloom of the pandemic could overtake the joy in life, but seeing fans gather to see these young men play their hearts out in a season that has lost meaning is inspirational.

The 90-81 victory filled the late slot of games, especially in the absence of Boise State-UNLV football…a casualty of the COVID-19 variety. That last sentence is so 2020 and very much the sort of time capsule thing you hope isn’t unearthed in the future.

Auburn didn’t cover the spread (-11 today), but they looked impressive against a game opponent. The War Eagle breaks down the performance on an individual level:

Justin Powell’s game grade: A

Before I continue, let me present Bruce Pearl’s comments about switching up his lineup without filter:

"“Our starters are not very verbal,” Pearl pointed out. “They are all good players, but most of the guys coming off the bench–Jamal (Johnson), JP (Justin Powell), Stretch (Babatunde Akingbola), for sure–are all better communicators than three of the guys playing in front of them. I might need to get one of those guys on the floor with that starting group just for better communication and so if I do make that adjustment, that would be the reason.”"

Pearl inserted Justin Powell into the starting lineup and was met with a 26/9/4 stat line that included seven made 3-pointers. To say his move paid off is a negligent understatement.

Powell knocked it out of the park and then some.

After Powell shot 7/9 from 3-pointers and perfect from the free-throw line, the gamble of pulling Tyrell Jones from the first five looked like a genius call from Pearl.

Jaylin Williams’ game grade: A-

A very common theme for this game was consistently solid play across the entire starting five. While the rim protection wasn’t elite, Jaylin Williams’ across the board contributions (13/4/4) certainly helped craft the narrative that he is in fact ready for a bigger role than he had last season.

JT Thor’s game grade: B+

JT Thor was a little less efficient than Williams (3-6 as opposed to 5-8) but he scored three less points, recorded one less block, one less turnover and three less fouls. This is all to say that Thor and Williams were about as equally effective, with Williams getting a slight nod.

Nothing wrong with inspiring some friendly competition in the frontcourt, am I right?!

Devan Cambridge’s game grade: B

Devan Cambridge took a lot of shots on Friday night. Every single one of them was a 3-pointer. His conversion rate was a decent 36 percent, as he knocked down 4/11 from beyond the arc. Overall, his sniping was appreciated if not absolutely necessary to take down the Jaguars considering the easy looks Auburn basketball was getting at the rim.

Allen Flanigan’s game grade: A-

Allen Flanigan was once again a gamer, providing steady play from the wing once again. Where his shot was failing him against UCF this past Monday, he was reliable Friday night with his shot, knocking down four of his six long-range attempts and hitting 5/8 overall.

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