Green, Johnson lead No. 15 Auburn past George Mason, 70-52

Nov 7, 2022, 5:28 AM | Updated: 8:50 pm

George Mason forward Malik Henry (35) fouls Auburn guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett)

(35)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn’s outside shots weren’t falling in its season opener but that didn’t matter much because the defense was on point.

Wendell Green Jr. scored 16 points while K.D. Johnson and Johni Broome each had 12 to lead the 15th-ranked Tigers to a 70-52 victory over George Mason on Monday night.

“Our defense was really good,” coach Bruce Pearl said. “Rim protection was really good. I think we wore them down.”

The Tigers weren’t really challenged much in their first game since losing NBA first-round draft picks Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler. Green and Johnson are the top returnees on a team picked to finish fourth in the Southeastern Conference after rising to No. 1 in the nation for the first time in program history last season.

Neither team managed to hit 40% of their shots, but Auburn forced 19 turnovers and contained George Mason star Josh Oduro. That overcame 4-of-25 shooting (16%) from 3-point range, including Johnson’s 2-of-9 performance.

“We’re going to rely on our defense, and defense wins championships,” Johnson said.

Broome enjoyed a solid debut for Auburn as one of the players Pearl brought in to replace the two big men. The transfer from Morehead State had six rebounds and four of the Tigers’ 10 blocked shots.

Returning big man Dylan Cardwell had nine rebounds and five blocks.

“It’s a good start,” Pearl said. “Obviously if we continue to shoot the ball poorly, then we’ll have concerns. I’m not concerned now, but we’ve got to shoot it better.”

Ronald Polite III led George Mason with 10 points, and Victor Bailey Jr. had nine. Oduro, the leading scorer in the Atlantic 10 Conference last season, had eight points and played most of the second half in foul trouble.

“Our ball security and our defensive rebounding are our No. 1 areas we need to improve on,” George Mason coach Kim English said. “And I wanted to test it out against the best right off the bat.

“We’ve got to keep improving and getting better. Obviously a humbling experience for our group.”

The Patriots hit their last five shots of the first half to trim an 18-point deficit to 31-24 by halftime. They closed on a 13-2 run that started with three straight 3-pointers after missing their first seven and cut it to six points early in the second half but couldn’t keep it close.

English said he figured other Auburn returnees would be eager to emerge following the departures of Smith and Kessler.

“They wanted to show that it’s their time to step up and they did that,” the George Mason coach said. “That was the thing, who was it going to be? Who was going to be the guy on their team that stepped up and I think they did it collectively. They all had their moments.”

BIG PICTURE

George Mason: Opened a season on the road for the first time since 2008. … Got outrebounded 48-37. … Beat Maryland and Georgia on the road last season but couldn’t overcome another Power Five team.

Auburn: The Tigers have won all nine openers under Pearl. They’ve won 39 straight non-conference games at home.

SPEAKING ENGLISH

Pearl is a fan of English, a former Missouri player and Tennessee assistant starting his second year as a head coach.

“I tried to recruit him when he went to Missouri,” Pearl said. “I’m a big fan of his. I followed him. Very impressed with Kim English. Always have been, as a player and now as a coach.”

UP NEXT

George Mason hosts Longmont on Friday night.

Auburn hosts South Florida on Friday night and plays its first four games at Neville Arena.

___

https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Connecticut's Jordan Hawkins (24) reacts after making a basket in the first half of an NCAA college...
Associated Press

Hawkins leads unbeaten No. 8 UConn past Okla St 74-64

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Jordan Hawkins scored a career-high 26 points to lead unbeaten No. 8 UConn past Oklahoma State 74-64 on Thursday night in the Big East-Big 12 Battle. Adama Sanogo added 20 points and Andre Jackson scored 11 for the Huskies (9-0). It was the smallest margin of victory for UConn so far […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

Amoore’s triple-double lifts No. 9 Va Tech over Nebraska

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Georgia Amoore had 24 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the first triple-double in Virginia Tech history as the No. 9 Hokies beat Nebraska 85-54 on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Elizabeth Kitley added 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Hokies (7-0), who were playing their first […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for […]
18 hours ago
Associated Press

No. 23 Gonzaga women beat SFA in homecoming for Truong twins

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (AP) — Kaylynne Truong had 21 points and seven assists, Yvonne Ejim added 19 points and nine rebounds and No. 23 Gonzaga beat Stephen F. Austin 71-59 on Thursday night in a homecoming for the Truong twins. Kayleigh Truong and Kaylynne both graduated from Jersey Village High School in Houston. In 2019, they […]
18 hours ago
North Carolina's Teonni Key (13) shoots over Indiana's Mackenzie Holmes (54) during the first half ...
Associated Press

No. 5 Indiana’s 3-point barrage buries No. 6 North Carolina

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Mackenzie Holmes scored 25 points, Sydney Parrish added 24 and No. 5 Indiana hit 12 3-pointers to defeat No. 6 North Carolina 87-63 on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The battle of unbeatens had drastically different shooting nights. The Hoosiers got hot to improve to 8-0 and the Tar […]
18 hours ago
FILE - The national championship trophy is seen before a new conference for the NCAA college footba...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: How will College Football Playoff expansion work?

The College Football Playoff will include 12 teams, starting with the 2024 season. An expansion plan that was crafted for two years and haggled over for another 18 months finally cleared all the obstacles needed to go from idea to reality. The CFP announced Thursday that the current four-team system would be tripling in size. […]
18 hours ago
Green, Johnson lead No. 15 Auburn past George Mason, 70-52