AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The Auburn Tigers went from not being able to hit many shots to scarcely missing.
Jaylin Williams scored 20 points, Wendell Green Jr. had 17 and No. 19 Auburn heated up in the second half to beat Georgia State 72-64 Wednesday night.
The Tigers (9-1) rebounded from their first loss, 82-73 against Memphis, with a hot-shooting second half after struggling for the first 23 minutes.
Auburn hit 18 of 27 shots (66.7%) in the half but struggled to shake the Panthers (5-5), who led by six a few minutes after coming back from the locker room.
“The first half we were second-guessing coming off the tough loss to Memphis, just trying to get our groove back,” said Auburn freshman Tre Donaldson, who helped fuel the surge. “We were second-guessing our shots in the first half.
“We had a talk in the locker room and said we’re going to shoot the ball with confidence and we’re going to knock them down like we did in the second half.”
Williams made 8 of 11 shots, including both 3-point attempts, and had eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Green did much of his damage from the free throw line, where he was 11 of 15, and passed the 1,000-point mark for his career.
Coach Bruce Pearl said Green twisted his ankle late and could miss a couple of days of practice.
Johni Broome scored 13 for the Tigers.
“This team in the last three games against Colgate, Memphis and now Georgia State is not playing well enough to beat the teams left on our schedule,” Pearl said.
“There’s got to be a level of accountability for our players to be able to make plays on both ends of the floor.”
Evan Johnson led Georgia State with 14 points. Dwon Odom had 13 but made just 4 of 16 shots. Brenden Tucker added 10 despite picking up his fourth foul with 17:35 left.
Auburn finally created some breathing room with nine straight points midway through. Donaldson scored on a drive and a 3-pointer that just beat the shot clock for a 51-41 lead that stood as Auburn’s biggest of the game. Donaldson had only played three minutes in the past three games combined.
The Panthers led 31-28 at halftime when the Tigers scoring almost half their points (13) from the free throw line. Then Auburn made 13 of its last 15 shots.
“It was a combination of fatigue, a combination of those guys getting hot,” Georgia State coach Jonas Hayes said. “I always say, good defense always gets beat by better offense. And they were getting to their spots, they were hitting shots.
“They were making tough shots, too. They’re a hell of a team, maybe the best team in the SEC.”
Auburn guard K.D. Johnson was held out of the game for what Pearl termed “a coach’s decision” on the pre-game radio show. Johnson, who’s averaging 10.9 points as the team’s top reserve, didn’t dress. Pearl said after the game he will be available against USC.
“K.D.’s speed and quickness and athleticism obviously would help. K.D.’s one of our best players,” Pearl said. “Obviously he makes a difference for us.”
Georgia State: Hayes couldn’t keep his Southeastern Conference string alive. As interim coach, he led Xavier to three wins against SEC teams last season en route to the NIT title. It was his team’s first game since a Dec. 4 loss to Northeastern.
Auburn: Shot just 7 of 22 from the floor (31.8%) in the first half before finally heating up. And the Tigers got outrebounded 35-26.
Georgia State hosts Rhode Island on Sunday.
Auburn visits USC on Sunday to start a two-game West Coast swing that also includes Washington.
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John Zenor, The Associated Press