That was a fun evening of basketball. We crushed an inferior opponent at home, which is exactly what tournament-caliber teams are supposed to do. It was cruel, it was methodical, and it was freaking ruthless. And the outcome was never in doubt. Not even for a second.
Let's break it down
1) Jalen Jones is Back
This was the Jalen Jones Aggie Hoops supporters had been searching for.
In the prior 5-6 games, Jalen seemed intent on forcing his way to the rack every time he touched the ball. That mentality, combined with the fact that he couldn't buy a call down low for pretty much the entire month of February, really hurt his productivity.
Last night, he was back to his old self. Instead of trying to get to the rim on every touch, Jones was hitting floaters, hook shots, and pretty much everything in his arsenal from 5-7 feet. He even popped out to the top of the key and hit an 18-footer, which is a part of his game I wish he'd expand. Because he can hit that shot with regularity.
That's his game. Not the bullish moves to the bucket... the delicate array of moves from either block. He has great touch for a post player, and if he continues to rely on that touch we'll see him back in the 13-15 PPG range.
2) House was cold, and it didn't matter
Danuel House was 0-7 from downtown and 3-11 overall in the first half... and we were just fine. I think that was a big mental hurdle for this team to clear, as we had started to look to House to bail us out a bit too often in recent games. Performances of note included:
- Jalen Jones (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5-10 FG)
- Alex Caruso (14 points, 4-4 3PT, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 happy birthday)
- Kourtney Roberson (12 points, 4-5 FG, 11 rebounds)
- Alex Robinson (19 minutes, 6 points, 2 assists)
3) The Reed Rowdies were fantastic
The student section was great tonight, and they never let up for the full 40 minutes. Highlights include:
- Filling around 75-80% of the area behind both baskets. (For what it's worth, the attendance as a whole was pretty solid)
- Chanting "U-S-A" when Auburn Guard Malcolm Canada was at the free-throw line.
- Giving leading scorer KT Harrell crap for his early air ball for two hours.
- Generally mocking Bruce Pearl and Cameron Bowers for the entire game. Pearl, for yelling at anyone and everything, and Bowers for his tendency to talk mess in a game where he was down twenty.
- A student-section wide "Happy Birthday" song to Alex Caruso late in the second half, which he acknowledged from the bench.
- Absolutely losing their shit when walk-on Kyle Dobbins scored late in the second half
It was everything a basketball student section is supposed to be, and I hope we see more of it next Saturday.
One final note, thoughts and prayers go out to the Mason family and to Auburn Basketball as a whole. A moment of silence preceded tip-off to honor Anthony Mason, who passed away on Saturday morning. Pearl was appreciative, as noted in the AP recap:
[the Tigers], who were without second-leading scorer Antoine Mason (15.1 points per game). Mason was with his family following the death of his father, former NBA forward Anthony Mason, on Saturday morning. A&M honored Anthony Mason with a moment of silence prior to the game.
Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said A&M's equipment crew also readily stitched memorial ribbons on the Auburn jerseys prior to the game.
"It makes me proud that Texas A&M is part of the SEC family," an emotional Pearl said.
All told, it was a delightful evening at Reed Arena for Aggie Hoops supporters. I know we have a good team this year, because they were able to overcome the curse of @gigthem08 attending conference games in person. And any time a squad is capable of overturning black magic that powerful, well... they might just have something good on their hands.
It's a tournament-ready squad, y'all. Let's close strong, raise some hell in Nashville, and charge guns blazing into our first NCAA tourney since 2011.