No. 13 Auburn will look to extend its season-opening winning streak to five games when it takes on high-scoring Bradley in the eight-team Cancun Challenge in Mexico on Tuesday evening.
A deep playing rotation and strong defense, especially in the post, has sparked the Tigers’ fast start. Auburn (4-0), from the Southeastern Conference, is averaging 80.5 points per game over its past two outings and was tied for first in the nation in blocked shots (36) entering Monday’s games.
A big reason for Auburn’s offensive production has been the play of Wendell Green Jr., Allen Flanigan, K.D Johnson and Johni Broome.
Green is the team’s leading scorer (14 points per game) and top assist man (4 per game), but Flanigan has been tremendous off the bench (8 ppg, 4 rebounds per game). Johnson (8.5 ppg, 1.8 apg) and Broome (11 ppg, 9 rpg) also have been reliable scorers in coach Bruce Pearl’s deep playing rotation.
Defensively, Broome and Dylan Cardwell have been terrific in the post. Broome is averaging three blocks per game, while Cardwell is averaging 4.3.
Broome (bone bruise) didn’t play in Auburn’s 72-56 win over Texas Southern on Friday after he injured his knee in an 89-65 win over Winthrop on Nov. 15. Broome is expected to play against the Braves.
Chris Moore picked up the slack in Broome’s absence by getting a season-high 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.
“It was just being confident, just trusting in my abilities and my coach’s belief,” Moore said.
“Chris Moore played really well,” Pearl said. “He’s a team favorite, a fan favorite because he’s a great kid, works so hard and has been so unselfish waiting his turn. It’s good to see him play with confidence.”
Bradley (3-1), from the Missouri Valley Conference, enters the Cancun Challenge averaging 79.3 points per game.
The Braves have six players who average double figures in scoring, but they will be playing without their top player, Ja’Shon Henry, when they take on the Tigers. Henry is averaging 13 points, 6 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, but he suffered the fourth concussion of his career in Bradley’s 73-60 comeback win over Southeast Missouri State on Saturday.
“I have to report Ja’Shon Henry has a very mild concussion and will not be going with us to Cancun,” Bradley coach Brian Wardle said. “That’s all I’m consumed with and care about, his career and well-being.”
Malevy Leons likely will have to pick up the slack in Henry’s absence. Leons is the Braves’ second-leading scorer (11 ppg) and top rebounder (6.8 rpg).
Duke Deen (10 ppg, 3.3 apg), Connor Hickman (10 ppg, 2 apg), Ville Tahvanainen (10.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Zek Montgomery (10.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg) are other consistent scoring options.
The Tigers and Braves will play in the Rivera Division, along with Northwestern and Liberty.
Purdue Fort Wayne, Eastern Michigan, Southern Miss and Winthrop are in the Mayan Division.
Tuesday’s game will be the third all-time meeting between Auburn and Bradley. The last time was in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, when Auburn won 90-86.
–Field Level Media