Auburn survives in 1st game ever as nation's No. 1TheSportsWig Admin
COLUMBIA, Mo. — K.D. Johnson scored 17 points, including five straight within the final 90 seconds, and No. 1 Auburn survived a scare from Missouri, winning 55-54 on Tuesday night in the program’s first-ever game as the nation’s top-ranked team.
Johnson converted a three-point play with 1:29 remaining to put Auburn ahead 53-51, added a layup with 45 seconds left for a four-point advantage and the Tigers (19-1, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) held on from there.
“Get the ball to K.D. Johnson and get the hell out of the way,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “It’s not rocket science.”
Walker Kessler had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Auburn, which shot 30% from the field much to the dismay of Pearl.
“We didn’t play like the best team in the nation tonight,” he said. “Being ranked No. 1 doesn’t make you No. 1.”
Javon Pickett led Missouri (8-11, 2-5) with 17 points, and Jarron Coleman added 10 in challenging the deeper, more skilled Tigers.
Missouri got off to a roaring start, opening a 10-point lead in the first six minutes while Auburn missed 10 of its first 11 shots. Auburn star freshman Jabari Smith — a potential top pick in this year’s NBA draft — scored three points in the first half as the teams went into halftime tied at 31.
Smith finished with five points on 2-of-15 shooting, although he contributed 10 rebounds.
Auburn won the rebounding battle, 49-37, 26 of which came on the offensive side of the ball. Though Pearl saw plenty to work on in this game, he was quite pleased with what he saw on the glass.
“You talk about guys playing with effort and energy, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Auburn’s Wendell Green Jr. injured his right knee in a collision with Missouri’s Yaya Keita with 13:18 left in the game. Green, who was called for a charge on the play, went to the locker room and didn’t return. Green entered the game as Auburn’s third-leading scorer at 13.0 points per game. The injury bears watching as the Tigers prepare to host Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
“We were very concerned when Wendell got rolled up down there,” Pearl said. “You kind of see your whole season flash before your eyes there without your point guard.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.