COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — South Carolina started a three-guard lineup with no center. Auburn’s Johni Broome noticed.
The Tigers’ 6-foot-10 center had a season-high 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 16 Auburn to an 81-66 win over South Carolina on Saturday.
After two straight games in which Broome averaged 10 points on 10 total strokes, the Tigers put their big man back on track.
“We like to start early and put pressure on them,” Broome said. “I’ve had a couple of tough games so it was good to get going.”
Auburn (16-3, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) picked up 16 points from Wendell Green and 12 from Jaylin Williams in his fifth straight win after enduring a few rallies in South Carolina after a disheartening defeat in Georgia.
The Gamecocks (8-11, 1-5) went on an 18-3 run and were only 10 down with eight minutes to go, but Auburn responded with their own 12-4 run and sent South Carolina to their third double-digit loss Consequence .
The Gamecocks caused an upset over Kentucky at the Rupp Arena on Jan. 10, coming home for three straight games but losing all convincingly. South Carolina has never led an SEC home game this season.
“South Carolina has two of the most impressive victories in our league — Kentucky and Clemson,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “I thought we had good defence, I thought we had offense from defence. Looks that part, doesn’t it? We just didn’t claim that to do credit to South Carolina.”
Freshman forward Gregory “GG” Jackson broke loose for 30 points but didn’t get much help; Sharpshooter Meechie Johnson scored 11 points but was 2 to 11 off the field.
Auburn took control early, but the Gamecocks were still in the game, despite shooting less than 20% from the floor and not hitting a field goal for more than five minutes in the first half. But the Tigers finished the first half on a 12-3 run and extended their lead to 26 points in the second.
South Carolina had 20 field goals and Jackson had 10 of them.
“God is putting me and my teammates through a very, very big test, but He showed what we could be capable of in that game in Kentucky,” Jackson said.
Broome hit 12 of his 17 shots in 30 minutes for his sixth double-double of the season and fifth against an SEC opponent.
Auburn: The Tigers are in the hunt after winning five straight games and are about to return home where they will have a chance to extend the nation’s longest active winning streak. Auburn has won its last 28 games at Auburn Arena and took the lead after Gonzaga lost at home to Loyola Marymount on Jan. 19 to end a 75-game win streak at home.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are simply trying to be competent in their first season under coach Lamont Paris. A .500 record for the season would be considered very successful considering he took over a team so lacking in talent that even adding an NBA prospect in Jackson wouldn’t help much.
Auburn has won two straight SEC games by at least 15 points for the first time since 1966.
“That was a good answer,” Pearl said. “Wendell had a lot to do with it. I thought Allen Flanigan’s play would go tremendously unnoticed. He continues to be patient and selfless on the offensive. He’s playing without a turnover again.”
The Tigers could move into the top 15 after a few more upsets this week. Connecticut at No. 15 has lost its last three games, but No. 14 TCU is ready to jump even higher after destroying Kansas on Saturday.
Auburn returns home to play Texas A&M on Wednesday night.
South Carolina goes to Florida on Wednesday night.