AUBURN, Ala. – When Auburn tips off Friday against Louisiana Monroe, Bruce Pearl wants the Tigers play for 40 minutes the way they did for 15 in the season opener.
“I was pleased with the elevation in play. Tremendous effort and energy,” said Pearl of the Tigers’ 77-54 victory over Morehead State on Tuesday. “I thought we succumbed to fatigue a little bit in the second half.”
Four Tigers scored in double figures against Morehead, including junior Jaylin Williams, who combined with freshman Jabari Smith to score 18 points, giving Auburn a powerful power forward combination.
“Jaylin Williams is an Auburn man,” said Pearl, crediting Williams for not transferring when Auburn brought in Smith, one of the nation’s top prospects, at his position. “He’s made progress every single year including this year.
“I think we’re as good as anybody in the country at that position with Jabari and Jaylin. It’s all about what kind of man Jaylin is, how he was brought up, his loyalty. He loves Auburn and we love him.”
“The bench has been great. They saved us against Southern Indiana (in Auburn’s exhibition game),” Pearl said. “I thought the bench did a great job with physicality, effort and energy, and that’s our strength.
“Our strength is when we play 10 or 11 guys. Later in the first half, later in the second half, when things are on the line, we should be a little fresher.”
For the first time since March 2020, Auburn Arena returned to full capacity with an announced crowd of 9,121 for the season opener.
“I love my guys playing with Joy,” Pearl said. “I want them to play with passion and with emotion. In front of the home fans, there’s a different level of excitement. It can elevate your play.”
Auburn (1-0) hosts ULM (0-1) Friday at 7 p.m. CT with Andy Burcham and Sonny Smith calling the action on the Auburn Sports Network. The game can be watched online on SEC Network+.
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer