BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Continue to make history. Coming off a Final Four appearance last year, that was the message for Auburn coming into the season. On Tuesday, the Tigers did just that by winning the Legends Classic, the program’s first regular-season tournament title since 2004.
Playing an undefeated Richmond team in the championship game at the Barclays Center, No. 18 Auburn battled back from a 1-point halftime deficit and pulled away down the stretch for an impressive 79-65 win. It was the second win in as many nights for the Tigers, who beat Richmond and New Mexico by a combined 39 points.
“Our guys came to Auburn to make history,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We haven’t won a regular-season tournament championship since 2004. That’s a long time. That was important to our team.”
“We knew we were going to play against great opponents,” Senior guard Samir Doughty said. “Whether we were playing against Wisconsin, Richmond or New Mexico, we knew it was going to be tough getting wins in here and we were going to be battle-tested. But if we just focus on defending and sharing the ball, I feel like we can beat anybody in the country.”
Doughty and fellow senior Austin Wiley led the way for Auburn in the championship game. Doughty scored a game-high 22 points, and Wiley finished just behind with 18 points.
The duo also kickstarted Auburn in the second half, scoring the team’s first seven points. Wiley made back-to-back buckets inside and then Doughty knocked down a 3-pointer. It was the start of a 19-6 run that the Tigers never looked back from.
Wiley also pulled down eight rebounds and after recording a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds against New Mexico, the senior was named Most Valuable Player.
“I’m happy for Austin Wiley,” Pearl said. “He’s healthy for the first time in his career, and you could see how well he moves and how physically dominating he is. You just can’t cover him. All you can do is foul on him.”
Senior Danjel Purifoy also scored in double figures for Auburn with 13 points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds. As a team, the Tigers outrebounded Richmond, 44-34, and turned 18 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points.
For the first time in his Auburn career, Isaac Okoro failed to score 10 or more points. But after sitting the majority of the first half with foul trouble and failing to score a point, the freshman responded with nine points in the second half to key Auburn’s surge. Okoro put the exclamation point on the victory with a one-handed slam in the closing minutes to make it 71-55.
It was another strong defensive effort from the Tigers, who held Richmond to 43 percent from the field and just 11 percent from beyond the arc The Spiders’ guard trio, which came in averaging 54.4 points per game, combined to score 31 points Tuesday.
At 7-0, Auburn is still undefeated on the season and will get a week off before returning home to face Furman in Auburn Arena on Thursday, Dec. 5. The game is scheduled to begin a 8 p.m. CT and will be televised on SEC Network.