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AU MEN’S BASKETBALL

No. 13 Auburn ekes out slugfest win against Northwestern to sweep Cancún Challenge

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Allen Flanigan (22) during the Riviera Championship Game of the Cancún Challenge against Northwestern on Wednesday at the Hard Rock Riviera Maya in Cancún, Mexico.

It took Auburn about 28 minutes to muster 23 points Wednesday in Cancún, but all it needed was another 30 seconds.

From the 11:34 to 11:04 mark of the second half Wednesday, No. 13 Auburn erased a six-point deficit with an eight-point flurry, regaining a lead that’d prove crucial late in a 43-42 win against Northwestern to close out Cancún Challenge play ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The fact that we held Northwestern to 42 points tells you about our effort, our energy and our defense,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “That’s got to carry us. You know, our bench struggled, our young guys struggled — as you would expect with the physicality.”

Auburns (6-0) posted a season-low 26% field goal percentage one day after notching its season-high in that department in a win against Bradley. It was abysmal shooting from both teams Wednesday, logging a combined 25.8% on 27-for-106 shooting. Northwestern was terrible from beyond the arc, with 2-for-24 shooting from 3, and no Tiger was better than 50% from the field.

The bulk of Auburn’s points came from KD Johnson and Jaylin Williams. The duo were the only Tigers to find their ways into double figures, with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Williams shot 40% from the field and was hot from 3 for the second consecutive night, officially going 5-for-11 from 3 in Cancún Challenge play. Johnson sparked Auburn’s eight-point run, prefacing it with a pull-up 3 that got the Tigers within a point, then getting and-1 layup to start the stretch.

Allen Flanigan also logged seven points, being the next closest Auburn scorer to double figures. Wendell Green Jr. attempted nine field goals and only made one, but he logged a team-high 10 rebounds.

Although they managed to clean it up in the second half, the Tigers got into foul trouble early, finishing with 18 personal fouls, 12 of which were called before intermission. Northwestern got to the foul 16 times, but only twice did that happen in the second half.

“We’ve got to get a lot better,” Pearl said. “We’ve got to get a lot better.”

Pearl said after the game that he’s got to get freshman Chance Westry honed in on one position. The former four-star recruit has played the 1, 2 and 3 positions for Auburn so far this year.

“He’s got to know what we’re doing,” Pearl said. “Right now, he’s struggling to know what we’re doing, and I probably need to get him at one position because that’s just too much to be playing all that stuff. I’ve got to figure that out.”

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