All signs point to Senior Forward Danjel Purifoy as one of the biggest keys for the Auburn Tigers to restart their win streak going throughout the rest of the SEC season.
The fourth-ranked Auburn men’s basketball team’s historic 15-0 start was a team affair through and through, although it came to an end last night with the Tigers' loss to Alabama. The Tigers couldn't have survived that long, though, without Purifoy or their revamped offensive system.
The Centerville native has season averages of 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals. Purifoy’s value comes from his experience, big-play ability and newfound defensive prowess.
He has the ability to come into games and turn the tide, especially in the second half. In the second half, Purifoy has averaged 11.3 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 6-of-11 from beyond the arc to start off the SEC season.
During Auburn’s narrow, 83-79, win over Vanderbilt, Purifoy held the line and ensured the Tigers came out on top. The difference-maker dropped 10 of his 12 points in the second half and snatched a steal to seal the deal with 20 seconds left.
“I think he’s starting to reach his potential now,” said Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl. “And I think that having played behind Chuma (Okeke) last year and then the year before he was not eligible, he’s just now back in the swing of things.”
Purifoy, like many players on Auburn’s roster, knows what an SEC Championship feels like. He knows how to navigate the perils of a deep March Madness run. This veteran experience in uncommon moments should serve the Tigers well throughout the season.
According to Pearl, Purifoy is coming right along as a well-rounded and solid player. He has seen improvements across the board, from being defensively tough to rebounding and growing confidence in his shot.
Through all the personal and team success Purifoy remained focused on the future.
“It means a lot,” said Purifoy. “When we first got here, we weren’t winning as many games, but we got different players here such as Isaac (Okoro), Mustapha (Heron) and Austin (Wiley). Players like that. It just changed the program. We’ve just got to keep winning.”
Purifoy isn’t the only Tiger showing a jump in skills. Thanks to Auburn’s new offensive system, which has grown to rely on its bench players just as much as its starting five. Senior forward Anfernee McLemore and freshman guard Allen Flanigan lit things up for the Tigers’ bench against Georgia.
The duo combined to score 28 points, going 11-of-14 shooting and 2-5 from three. This blazed the trail for Auburn’s bench to outscore Georgia’s 34-13. This is the third time this season that the Tigers’ bench has scored at least 30 points.
“It was a big spark for the team,” said McLemore. “We didn’t start off as well as we wanted to, so me and Allen being able to come off the bench was big for our team.”
Pearl expressed clear disappointment in his bench players after Auburn’s win over Vanderbilt, so seeing the team turn it around for Georgia brought out all the praise.
“The bench was terrific,” said Pearl. “It was probably the best the bench played. When they start playing like that, that bench starts to play like that, we have a chance to be a pretty good ball club.”
The Tigers will face arguably their biggest road test to date when they travel to face Florida on Saturday. The game is set for a 12:30 p.m. tipoff and will be televised on CBS.