TAMPA – Trailing by nine midway through the second half, No. 21 Auburn went on a 15-0 run over the next five minutes and never looked back, earning a hard-fought 58-52 road win at South Florida on Friday.
The run was ignited by back-to-back alley-oop dunks from Auburn. Wendell Green Jr. connected with Jaylin Williams first and then it was Green again who made almost the same lob to a streaking Devan Cambridge for the slam to cut the lead to 40-35.
Sophomore K.D. Johnson scored the next four points with a tough drive off the glass followed by a steal and fast-break lay-up for two. Then, after a South Florida timeout, freshman Jabari Smith drained a 3 to give the Tigers a 41-40 lead – their first lead of the night.
Johnson finished with a team-high 15 points off the bench. The Georgia transfer was 4 of 9 from the field and made a pair of 3s. He also added two rebounds and two steals.
Fellow transfer Zep Jasper was the only other Tiger to score in double figures with 13 points. Jasper was clutch in the final minutes, knocking down a corner 3 to extend Auburn’s lead to 55-47, and then he iced the game with a pair of free throws in the final minute.
In the first half, Auburn trailed by as many as 15 but used an 8-0 run to get back into it and then scored the final four points of the half to make it 33-26 at intermission. Williams, who knocked down a jumper at the buzzer, scored six of his eight points in the first 20 minutes. The junior also added five rebounds and two assists for the game.
It was a tough night shooting for Smith, who was 3 of 12 from the floor, but the freshman still scored nine points and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds. It’s the second straight game with 10 rebounds for Smith.
Walker Kessler had seven rebounds and a team-leading three blocks for the Tigers.
Auburn will return home for a couple days before they travel to The Bahamas to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis. First up is a matchup with No. 23 UConn on Wednesday.