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Auburn continues dominate start to SEC play, in Columbia

Image Courtesy of Auburn Basketball Twitter Account | @auburnmbb

Auburn, the number nine team in the land, defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Colonial Life Center 81-66, giving the Tigers a tenth straight victory and second straight in SEC play. Bruce Pearl’s squad entered the game 1-3 in their last 4 games against South Carolina in Columbia but, will leave having won their last four matchups against the Gamecocks.

Below are the Patrick Party’s three biggest keys to Auburn Basketball’s latest win, tonight over South Carolina

“We’ve Got Wendell”

Coming off a 15 point night against LSU last Wednesday, Wendell Green scored 14 points in the first half and a personal season high, 22 for the night. Green only hit one three ball in his 22 point night but went 7-7 from the charity stripe.

"Rather than starting games, he's finishing games,” Pearl said. "Wendell Green Jr., in back-to-back road appearances, showed his courage and showed his swagger."

Image Courtesy of Auburn Basketball Twitter Account | @auburnmbb

Green has consistently come off the bench and contributes significantly in minutes and stats for the Tigers, averaging 24.8 minutes per game and leads the team with 4.6 assists per game. Tonight in 28 minutes Wendell Green had five assists and five rebounds.

"On many teams, Wendell's had to carry his team offensively. There are times when he's going to carry us offensively, but not at the expense of letting teams line him up,” Bruce Pearl said. “He's done a really good job buying into that. He's a coach's son, and his dad is his best coach. And his dad understands in order to win, you've got to be able to do it on both ends of the floor."

Walker Kessler probably orders a “double double” at In and Out Burger

After a historic triple-double night against LSU, Walker Kessler continued his dominate start to SEC play with a double-double, including 12 points and 10 rebounds. In his team leading 29 minutes of play, Kessler did not miss a shot, going 5-5 from the field and 2-2 from the foul line.

The block party continues for Walker Kessler as he brings his season total to 59 with 4 more blocks against the Gamecocks. Averaging 4.2 blocks per game, the 7 foot 1 sophomore is now the third highest player in the nation with the most blocks. Jamarion Sharp, from Western Kentucky, leads with 69 and Obinna Anochili-Killen, from Marshall, is second with 62.

Kessler’s team high 10 rebounds certainly helped the Tigers in what was a narrow victory in the rebounding battle, 34-31. Kessler now averages 7.5 rebounds per game, an increase from 3.2 a season ago at North Carolina.

Fun Fact: Walker Kessler averages a double-double in SEC play.

Auburn’s Bench is DEEP.

In quite possibly the best statistic of the night for the Tigers, the Auburn bench outscored the Gamecock bench 40-11.

In regards to bench play, Bruce Pearl said, "It was vital. Dylan was terrific. Chris Moore had great moments. Jaylin had great moments. Lior was solid again. Of course, Wendell sort of pads those stats a little.”

Image Courtesy of Auburn Basketball Twitter Account | @auburnmbb

As Pearl stated, Green led the way for the bench with a team high 22 points but the play of Jaylin Williams, Dylan Cardwell, and Chris Moore was crucial in the win. In 17 minutes, Williams had 6 points, 2 rebounds, and one assist. In 11 minutes, Cardwell had 5 points and 1 assist. In 9 minutes, Moore had 5 points and 4 rebounds.

With the “off” night of Jabari Smith, I say “off” because while Smith ended with 10 points, he got in some early foul trouble and had only three points for the majority of the game, it was important to see Auburn’s front court not miss a beat with strong performances from Jaylin, Dylan, and Chris.

"You know, it's what we always talk about — we have several guys who can go for however many points every night," Green Jr. said after the game. "It's not just one guy that we're relying on. Our depth is crazy. We've got 11 guys, 11 guys who can do it. I feel like that's what makes this something special."

Up Next For The Tigers:

After a win on the road in Columbia, Auburn will return to Auburn Arena to take on the Florida Gators on Saturday, January 8th at 7:00pm CST on ESPN2.

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