Defense headlines No. 15 Auburn’s duel with Colgate

Wendell Green Jr. and Johni Broome have been a formidable outside-inside punch for No. 15 Auburn through its first seven games.

But a big reason why Bruce Pearl’s team is undefeated entering a Friday home date with high-scoring Colgate has been the play of its stingy, in-your-face defense.

Entering the matchup with Raiders, Auburn (7-0) leads the country in blocked shots (8.3 per game) and is ranked 16th nationally in points allowed (56.9).

In a 65-60 comeback win over an experienced Saint Louis squad last Sunday, the Tigers’ defense allowed just two points to the Billikens in the game’s final five minutes, sparking a 12-2 run to close the game. It was the fifth time in seven outings that Auburn held its opponent to 60 points or less.

“Defense wins championships,” said Broome, who had 11 points, eight rebounds and a season-high eight blocks in the victory. “I knew I had to make an impact on the game and that was rebounding and blocking shots.”

Green is coming off a season-high 22 points in the win over the Billikens. He’s currently the Tigers’ leader in scoring (13.4 points per game) and assists (3.7). But he doubles as a quality rebounder (4.6) despite his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame.

Broome (10.5 points, 8.7 rebounds) has been Auburn’s best offensive player in the post. But he, along with Dylan Cardwell, are a big reason why the Tigers lead college basketball in blocked shots.

Broome ranks third nationally in blocks per game (3.7), while Cardwell, who is averaging 4.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, is tied for seventh in blocks (2.8).

K.D. Johnson (9.7 points) and Allen Flanigan (8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds) continued their outstanding play off the bench in the win over Saint Louis. Johnson had four points in the late-game surge, while Flanigan added a momentum-shifting dunk in addition to tying a career-high with 10 rebounds.

Colgate (5-4) features four players who average double figures in scoring, but defense has been a major issue for head coach Matt Langel’s squad. In the Raiders’ four losses this season, the team has allowed 81.5 points per game.

Tucker Richardson (16.4 points, 5.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds) and Ryan Moffatt (12.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists) are Colgate’s top scorers. But they are also excellent defenders who give opposing teams problems with their length.

Richardson was recently named to the Lou Henson Award Watch List, which is presented annually to the top mid-major player in Division I hoops. He’s a five-year starter and the only player in school history who’s amassed 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.

Oliver Lynch-Daniels (11.3 points, 2.7 rebounds) and youngster Braeden Smith (9.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists) are also key contributors on a Colgate offense that’s averaging 81.2 points an outing.

Following a 92-58 win over Hartford, Langel gave his team a day off before shifting Colgate’s focus to the Tigers.

“It will be good to get a much-needed day of rest before we get back to work for an excellent Auburn team,” Langel said.

–Field Level Media