Kessler, No. 11 Auburn topple unbeaten No. 16 LSU 70-55

Sports

Auburn forward Walker Kessler (13) blocks the shot of LSU center Efton Reid (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Walker Kessler had 16 points, a career-high 11 blocked shots and nine rebounds to lead No. 11 Auburn to a 70-55 victory over previously unbeaten No. 16 LSU on Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Freshman Jabari Smith also scored 16 points for Auburn (12-1), which has won nine straight and didn’t give up a field goal in the opening 10 minutes.

LSU (12-1), which came as one of major college basketball’s five unbeaten teams, scored just one point in the first 10:45 but still managed to pull to within six a couple of times in the second half.

Kessler made 6 of 8 shots, including his fourth 3-pointer of the season, and fell a rebound shy of the second triple double in Auburn history. He contested a 3-point shot at the end instead of going for the potential rebound.

Wendell Green Jr. had 15 points and preseason All-SEC guard Allen Flanigan scored 10 in his first start.

Flanigan returned against Murray State and scored three points after missing the first 11 games recovering from Achilles surgery.

Xavier Pinson had 13 points when he fouled out with 5:32 left for LSU. Leading scorer Tari Eason, who missed the Lipscomb game with back spasms, got foul No. 5 a couple of minutes later and scored 11. Darius Days also scored 11.

Auburn turned the tables on one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.

LSU missed 16 straight shots to open the game, 11 of them from 3-point range, and had three of them blocked by Kessler. LSU’s Eric Gaines did snap a personal string of 21 straight missed 3-point attempts late in the game.

The host Tigers were playing without guard Devan Cambridge, who announced Tuesday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Cambridge was averaging 7.8 points and 3.3 rebounds a game.

BIG PICTURE

LSU actually scored first with a free throw by Gaines before giving up an 18-0 run. The nation’s No. 2 scoring defense helped keep it from getting quite so out of hand. Shot just 18 of 63 (28.6%).

Auburn allowed 21 first-half points, the fifth-fewest given the team has given up before the half at Auburn Arena.

FAMILY TIES

Smith’s father, Jabari Smith Sr., played at LSU for two seasons, averaging 17.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in his career. Drafted 45th overall by the Sacramento Kings in 2000, the elder Smith also played for the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

UP NEXT LSU hosts No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Auburn visits South Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

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