ATLANTA — Indiana men’s basketball came to Atlanta, Georgia, looking to pick up a quality non-conference win and extend its winning streak to five games. Instead, the Hoosiers got walloped in a 106-76 blowout against Auburn University. It marked the first time Indiana allowed 100+ points since a 112-110 double-overtime loss to Syracuse University on Nov. 30, 2021.
The Hoosiers came out firing. Indiana shot 3-pointers on its first three possessions and made every one, leaping out to a 9-3 lead. After a few misses, freshman forward Mackenzie Mgbako made his second long ball of the game — tying Indiana’s season-high with four 3-pointers less than four minutes into the contest.
Sophomore center Kel’el Ware scored on back-to-back possessions and the Hoosiers gained an early 10-point advantage. The lead soon grew to 12 points, but the fast-paced Tigers sunk consecutive 3-pointers to make it 22-16 with 12 minutes left in the half.
The early high-scoring affair slowed down and Auburn chipped away. After trading baskets, the Hoosiers endured a near 5-minute scoring drought as the Tigers tied the score at 26 all. Amid the run, Indiana junior forward Payton Sparks missed a wide-open transition layup, and instead Auburn scored on the ensuing fast break, a key 4-point swing.
Auburn took its first lead of the game off a pair of free throws at the 7:23 mark while Indiana continued its offensive struggles. The Hoosiers encountered foul trouble as sophomore guard CJ Gunn picked up three first-half infractions, and freshman guard Gabe Cupps, senior guard Trey Galloway and sophomore forward Kaleb Banks each had two.
The Tiger train didn’t stop. What became a 19-1 run flipped the Hoosiers’ once 12-point lead into a 12-point deficit with just over four minutes left in the frame.
Indiana’s first frame was a tale of two. After scoring 26 points and leading by 6 in the first 10 minutes, the Hoosiers scored 8 points the remainder of the half on just one field goal and found themselves trailing by 18 at halftime, a 52-34 deficit.
After entering the tunnel with a look of defeat on their faces, the Hoosiers showed fight to start the second half. Indiana opened the frame on a 10-3 run to cut the deficit to 11 while attempting to rally the strong contingency of Hoosier fans.
Auburn showed its resolve. After the teams traded baskets, the Tigers ripped off an 11-1 run including three 3-pointers to gain a 68-47 lead, their largest advantage of the game at that point. Senior guard K.D. Johnson continued to provide a spark with buckets after a productive first half.
At the 12:55 mark, Ware drew a shooting foul but appeared shaken up and grabbed at his left knee. After splitting the free throws, he was substituted out but eventually re-entered the game.
The Tigers steadily outpaced the Hoosiers as the second half unfolded to further expand their lead. Auburn graduate forward Jaylin Williams took charge and helped Auburn gain a 24-point lead with eight minutes remaining.
After a pair of free throws from Ware, Gunn made a 3-pointer to cut Auburn’s lead under the 20-point mark. Gunn’s make was Indiana’s first 3-pointer since the 16:17 mark in the first half, a 29-minute difference in game time.
Williams and freshman guard Aden Holloway continued their downpour on the Hoosiers. Williams constantly slashed the basket, and Holloway kept connecting from deep, finishing the contest with five 3-pointers.
Indiana shot 42.9% from the field — its second-lowest mark of the season. Meanwhile, Auburn made 48.6% of its shots and went 14-of-29 from deep — a 48.3% clip. Indiana’s loss was by its largest margin since an 82-53 loss to Saint Mary’s College of California in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.