Tigers gain valuable experience against Israel National Team

Auburn completes International Tour
Auburn players huddle during an International Tour game in Israel
Auburn players huddle during an International Tour game in Israel(Steven Leonard/Auburn Athletics)
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - In the third and final game of its international tour, Auburn went back-and-forth with the Israel National Team, a team made up of professional players, before ultimately losing, 95-86, on Monday. It was the team’s first loss in Israel.

Junior point guard Wendell Green Jr. led the Tigers with 19 points.

“It was fun just to go out there and compete against some pros, some older guys,” Green said. “We went out there and played hard. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but we’ll take it and work in the fall leading up to November. It was a great experience for us.”

Green drew some oohs and aahs from the pro-Israel crowd late in the first half when he stopped at the elbow, hesitated before crossing over his defender, and then dropped in a floater to give Auburn a 41-40 lead. Just minutes before that, he knocked down a long 3-pointer – one of his trademarks since arriving on the Plains.

The Tigers, who trailed 43-41 at the half, fell behind by 10 (68-58) at the end of the third quarter. But they started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to one.

“I feel like the highlight was when we were in the fourth quarter coming back, we stayed together as a team,” junior Chris Moore said. “It’s something that Coach (Pearl) preached a lot throughout the season and the summer. This whole trip is about bonding, and I feel like coming in and doing that contributed to our comeback a little bit.”

Auburn’s Johni Broome capped the 9-0 run with a tip-in basket. The Morehead State transfer scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and posted his second double-double of the trip with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He also added four steals and three blocks.

Moore, who scored four quick points in the first quarter to give the Tigers an early boost, finished with nine points and six rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.

Between Broome, Moore and the rest of the Auburn bigs, the Tigers outrebounded Israel, 46-41, and scored 40 points in the paint as a team to Israel’s 30. Auburn also stayed active defensively, forcing 17 turnovers and scoring 24 points off turnovers.

“That’s a tough team,” Moore said. “We were playing against some grown men. It was a real battle on the boards, and we all competed well.”

Guards Zep Jasper and K.D. Johnson each scored 11 points for Auburn. Jasper knocked down 3 of his 4 attempts from beyond the arc, and Johnson led the Tigers in plus-minus (+9).

After back-to-back 20-point performances in the first two games of the trip, freshman Yohan Traore scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in Monday’s contest.

Israel’s Deni Avdija led all scorers with 25 points. Avdija was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and currently plays for the Washington Wizards.

For Auburn, 10 different players scored for the third straight game.

“The biggest takeaway for me is that we’ve got 12 good basketball players, maybe even 13,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “We’re going to put a good point guard out there. We’re going to put a good 2 guard out there. I don’t know who is going to start at the 3 or the 4 or the 5 because they all had their moments out there.

“So, we’re going to go back for the next two months and we’re going to compete, and the guys that want to be out there are the guys that are going to play the most productively.”

The Tigers open the regular season on Nov. 7 at home against George Mason.

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