AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Samir Doughty scored 20 points to lead No. 24 Auburn to an 83-74 victory over Georgia Southern Tuesday night in the opener for both teams.
The Tigers, coming off their first Final Four trip last season, could never quite pull away from the Sun Belt Conference’s Eagles. But Doughty made five of six free throws over the final 1:09 to avoid a late scare.
Auburn took a 61-48 lead eight minutes into the second half with Danjel Purifoy’s 3-pointer punctuating a quick eight-point flurry.
Austin Wiley had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, and Purifoy also scored 13 while making three 3s. Freshman Isaac Okoro scored 12 points in his debut. New point guard J’von McCormick had nine points and four assists.
Ike Smith, who took a medical redshirt last season after missing 23 games, scored 16 points for Georgia Southern. He was a first-team All-Sun Belt performer two years ago.
Isaiah Crawley also scored 16 while Elijah McCadden finished with 12 points.
Auburn had to replace its three top players — Jared Harper, Bryce Brown and Chuma Okeke — from the team that fell to eventual champion Virginia in the Final Four. This one started four seniors and Okoro, the team’s top new recruit.
Auburn took a 41-37 lead into halftime after freshman Devan Cambridge made back-to-back 3-pointers over the final 1:23.
Georgia Southern: The Eagles are trying for another strong season after back-to-back 21-12 records but are replacing Sun Belt player of the year Tookie Brown. They were outrebounded 41-27.
Auburn: The Tigers were ranked in the preseason for just the sixth time and second straight season. They committed 21 turnovers, including a wave of them early. Auburn improved to 8-0 against Georgia Southern.
Georgia Southern announced before the game that senior forward Simeon Carter has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Carter averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, mostly off the bench.
Georgia Southern makes its home debut Friday night against Reinhardt.
Auburn faces Davidson at the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Maryland, on Friday.
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