Freshman Guard Devan Cambridge ignited for a career-high 26 points in Auburn men’s basketball team’s 80-67 victory over South Carolina at Auburn Arena on Wednesday night.
Cambridge burst down the open lane early in the game. The Tigers were down, but he had a lead on the trailing Gamecocks defender. He didn’t have the ball in his hands, but he knew he was about to. This is the exact same set up from before when he drained a three.
The Nashville native reported to his assigned position at the corner of the three-point line. The ball hit his hands and in almost the same instant he releases it for a shot. It floats there, sinks in the net and the crowd goes wild. Cambridge’s back-to-back threes put the Tigers up 21-18, the first and only lead change for the Tigers.
The Tigers back court struggled to find their offensive groove early. South Carolina jumped out to a quick 15-6 lead, followed by a sequence where both teams appeared to be competing to see who could brick the most threes. They combined for eight missed three pointers in a three-minute span.
The tide changed when the freshman phenom stepped up. Cambridge and company kept shooting and passing until the Gamecocks didn’t know their left from their right. In a torrent of scoring, Auburn found themselves up 37-31 at half after a buzzer beater from Isaac Okoro.
Coming into Wednesday night, Cambridge was averaging 3.1 points in 17 games. He was 7-28 from three on the season and according to Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl, his confidence in himself was waning.
“BP just told me to be confident,” Cambridge said. “I had to step up today and I took that into consideration and just played my game. My teammates found me, and I was able to make my shots today.”
With dominant guards such as Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick dishing out the ball and Austin Wiley positioned under the net for the rebound, Cambridge had all the confidence in the world to shoot the ball. He proceeded to shoot 6-8 from beyond the arc.
“We made a conscious effort to not just get into the lane and attack, but to drive, draw and dish,” Pearl said. “On the receiving end, we needed guys to make shots and Devan was certainly feeling it.”
The Tigers quickly took off and quelled any chance of a Gamecocks’ comeback. Auburn drove the lanes, created open looks around the perimeter. This was to all to Pearl’s approval as he watched his team rack up 17 assists.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin attributed his teams’ demise to Auburn’s senior guards.
“The physicality and speed (Doughty and McCormick) showed, well we just couldn’t keep ‘em in front of us,” Martin said.
The Tigers led by as many as 21 but ended up winning the game 80-67. Auburn showed a vast increase in all offensive categories. The Tigers shot 46 percent from the field, 37 percent from beyond the arc and went 18-21 from the free-throw line.
Auburn takes on Iowa State on Saturday in the 2020 Big 12/SEC Challenge. These defending conference champions will face off at 11 a.m. in Auburn Arena.
“Early tip off Saturday, my guess is I’ll be out there with biscuits and breakfast again,” Pearl said. “Maybe I’ll do bagels.”