Freshman forward Isaac Okoro posted his collegiate high with 23 points as No. 5 Auburn held off Vanderbilt 83-79 in Southeastern Conference play Wednesday night in Auburn, Ala.
Guard J’Von McCormick hit two free throws with 45.8 seconds left to break a 79-79 tie and Okoro added one more with 22.8 remaining before forward Danjel Purifoy came up with a big steal to deny the Commodores an opportunity to answer in the closing seconds.
Purifoy scored 12 points and center Austin Wiley posted his sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds, hitting hit two big free throws late for the Tigers (14-0, 2-0 SEC), who won their third straight in the series after losing the previous 13 meetings with the Commodores.
Junior guard Saben Lee scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Commodores (8-6, 0-1 SEC). Forward Aaron Nesmith added 18 including a big 3-pointer that brought Vandy to within 78-75 with 1:56 remaining.
Up only 42-38 at the halftime break, the Tigers opened up a 51-40 cushion in less than four minutes of the second before the Commodores got going with a 7-0 run.
Auburn was back up by double digits on Okoro’s soaring dunk and free throw that made it a 60-49 game at the 11:40 mark and the Tigers led by as many as 14 points with under eight minutes remaining before Vandy staged a late rally.
Lee and Okoro put on a show in the first half. Lee scored 14 points while Okoro was within a point of his previous season- and career-high with 17 points before the break. Forward Anfernee McLemore matched his season high with all of his 14 points coming in the first half for Auburn.
Lee was 6 of 7 from the field in the first half with a pair of 3-pointers while Okoro was 5 of 6 from the field and 6 of 7 from the free throw line. McLemore had a pair of 3-pointers in three attempts.
—Field Level Media