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Auburn makes a statement against #16 LSU

Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

The eleventh ranked Auburn Tigers started off SEC play with a bang defeating the undefeated LSU Tigers 70-55, Auburn’s ninth straight victory. In front of an electric crowd, at Auburn Arena, Auburn only trailed to Will Wade’s bunch for the first 23 seconds of the ball game, by one point, and then proceeded to go on an eighteen point run that would propel them to their best win of the season.

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

Walker Kessler’s Block Party

Kessler, the 7’1 center, had a career high eleven blocked shots and, according to ESPN, is the first player in the SEC to have consecutive games with seven or more blocks since 2013. He is also only the second player in Auburn Basketball history to record a triple double, the first being Kenny Gabriel in 2012. Kessler’s fifty five total blocks this season are more than the entire North Carolina Basketball Team, the team Kessler transferred from this past offseason, has and would rank 54th in the nation among all College Basketball teams.

Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

"Our defense was outstanding,” Bruce Pearl said. “It starts and ends with Walker Kessler, his ability to protect the rim. Walker cleans everything up. If there's a better defender, rim protector and shot blocker in the country, I haven't seen him."

In Kessler’s twenty nine minutes on the floor, he co-led the team in points with sixteen, going 6-8 on FGs and making one three pointer. The starting center now averages 7.3 rebounds per game, with 10 against LSU, and 3.8 blocks per game.

Defense, Defense, Defense

LSU entered Auburn Arena #1 in the nation, according to Ken Pom, in defensive efficiency and LSU’s opponents had averaged 54.08 points per game this season. And while it was the LSU Defense that received all of the hype in the build up to this matchup, and rightfully so, it was Bruce Pearl’s defense that dominated headlines after the final whistle. Auburn held LSU to just 55 points which was the fewest points LSU has scored since March 8th, 2017, when the Tigers lost to Mississippi State 79-52 in the SEC Tournament.

Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

"We have, if not the best defense in the country, one of the best," Kessler said. "I think we showed that tonight."

Auburn’s defense set the tone early, holding LSU without a field goal for the first ten minutes and forty six seconds of the game and held the Tigers to just 21 points and a shooting percentage of 20 in the first half. Auburn also dominated LSU down low with ten more defensive rebounds, 32 to 22, and twelve more blocks, 14 to 2.

"We were able to control the game with our defense," Pearl said. "The fact that LSU had four assists and 17 turnovers was huge."

Jabari Smith is good at basketball.

Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

Smith, who’s father played at LSU from 1998-2000, led the team with thirty minutes on the floor in another great performance that included sixteen points, four rebounds, one block, and one assist.

"The Jungle helped us get our energy back, lock in on defense and fight that run," Jabari Smith said.

In perhaps his best sequence as a Tiger, to date, Smith was able to help put an exclamation point mark on the 1st Half. Jabari hit two foul shots with thirty eight seconds to play. On the ensuing LSU possession, Smith was able to get the defensive rebound off of a missed shot. He would then take it down the floor and hit a floater as time expired to push the lead back over ten points heading into the break.

"Pushing the tempo and trying to get an open look," Smith said. "Just playing patient and poised, getting to my spot and hitting my shot."

After another great performance against one of the better teams in the league this season, Smith will look to stay atop of NBA Draft Boards where he currently is projected as the second overall pick by Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated.

Up Next For The Tigers:

After a top sixteen win at home, Auburn will travel to Columbia, South Carolina for the Tiger’s first SEC road game of the year to take on South Carolina Gamecocks on Tuesday, January 4th at 5:30pm CST on the SEC Network.

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