|No. 24 Auburn wary of dangerous Davidson|
Auburn struggled past Georgia Southern in its opener, and things don't figure to get any easier for the No. 24 Tigers when they face Davidson on Friday night in the opening game of the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Md.
East Carolina and host Navy will meet in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
Davidson is not ranked in the Top 25 but is among other teams receiving votes. The Wildcats return all five starters from a 24-10 club that finished second in the Atlantic 10 with a 14-4 conference record last season.
Among returnees are Jon Axel Gudmundsson, the A-10 Player of the Year after averaging 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and Kellan Grady. Grady was a first-team all-league pick with an 17.3 scoring average as a freshman last season. They form a backcourt tandem that could challenge the error-prone Tigers.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said coach Bob McKillop's Wildcats are a team you want to avoid.
"You stay away from Bob. Period. The end," Pearl said. "They shoot the 3. They're a veteran team. They bring everyone back. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
The Tigers (1-0) had issues with turnovers in Tuesday's opener, committing 21 that led to a like number of points for Georgia Southern. Even after taking a 13-point lead early in the second half, the turnovers kept Auburn from pulling away and the visiting Eagles reduced their deficit to five points twice down the stretch.
Two good things emerged for the Tigers.
One, senior guard Samir Doughty, who started 27 games for last season's Final Four team, had a solid outing with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He also collected five rebounds, handed out three assists, and came up with four steals. He was responsible for just three of the team's turnovers.
"Samir made plays," Pearl said. "In a lot of ways, he won the ballgame for us. He makes plays, offensively and defensively. It's good to have him on the ball. It's good to have him off the ball. I thought he had great composure and gave us great confidence."
Another bright spot was the debut of heralded freshman forward Isaac Okoro. Okoro had 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and five rebounds.
"He was efficient, flying around," Doughty said. "He was doing the little stuff that we're used to him doing, posting him up. We're going to use him a lot more than y'all think, but I think he played a good all-around game."
Davidson will be playing its season opener after running past Glenville State 102-94 in an exhibition. Grady poured in 26 points, sophomore guard Luke Frampton added 20 and Gudmundsson scored 17.
A Division II program, the visiting Pioneers gave the Wildcats a good run early, pressing and trapping and shooting 50 percent from the field.
"We made big plays when we had to make big plays," McKillop said.
--Field Level Media