RALEIGH, N.C. – There’s a reason road wins are hard to come by. No. 7 Auburn learned that the hard way Wednesday night in a 78-71 loss on the road at North Carolina State.
“We turned the ball over way too much,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We took too many ill-advised shots. They did a good job of extending and disrupting a little bit, but a lot of it was we could’ve executed better. It was a good game and a great win for NC State.”
The bright spot of the night came from the Auburn bench and in particular, point guard J’Von McCormick, who led the team with 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting. It was a new career high for the junior college transfer, who played 14 minutes and added three assists.
The team’s next two leading scorers also came off the bench as Austin Wiley finished with 13 points and six rebounds and Malik Dunbar chipped in 12 points and four rebounds. It was Dunbar who scored six quick points in the first half to bring Auburn back, and Wiley scored six of the team’s first eight points in the second half to chip away at a 35-27 halftime deficit.
Starting point guard Jared Harper also finished in double figures with 11 points and added a team-high five assists, but he and backcourt mate Bryce Brown both struggled from the field. As a team, the Tigers shot just 5 of 25 from beyond the arc.
“They did a good job of pressing up,” Pearl said. “We didn’t move the ball very well. The ball got stuck too much. They extend pretty good defensively, jump passing lanes a little bit and make it hard for you to reverse the ball.”
Though the 3 ball wasn’t going down for the Tigers, they did hang around by winning the battle inside. Auburn shot 68 percent on its 2-point shots, dominated the points in the paint (48-26) and outrebounded the Wolfpack, 37-30. Wiley played a big part in that, but so did Chuma Okeke who had seven points and six rebounds and Horace Spencer who added four points and five boards off the bench.
NC State was led by guard Markell Johnson, who finished a game-high 27 points and scored 19 of those 27 points in the second half.
Auburn (9-2) will return home Saturday to face Murray State at 3:30 p.m. CT.