Kessler blocks 11 shots, gets triple-double; Huffman ties career-high with 20 points; Brooks has 10 rebounds

By R.L. Bynum

This year’s Carolina team sure could have used the shot-blocking presence that Walker Kessler is providing this season for No. 11 Auburn.

Kessler swatted a career-high 11 shots and put up a triple-double Wednesday night as the Tigers (12–1, 1-0 SEC) rolled to a 71–55 home win over previously unbeaten No. 16 LSU (12–1, 0–1) in the SEC opener for both teams.

Kessler earned the second triple-double in school history with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kenny Gabriel earned the first against Bethune-Cookman on Jan. 2, 2012, with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks.

“I have a pretty good timing going for blocks, knowing when and where to attack it,” Kessler said. “It was a lot of fun. Our fans were electric. They really showed out, and it really helped us. It was a blast. If I seem a little dazed, I’m tired — just a little bit.”

He’s the only Division I player in the last 25 years to produce a triple-double against a team with a 10–0 or better record. He’s third in the country in blocked shots with 3.83 per game.

Kessler was initially credited with only nine rebounds but that was changed to 10 about 90 minutes after the game following a video review. The rebound in question in the first half was initially credited as a team rebound.

He bettered his previous-best blocks game of eight on March 10 last season in UNC’s 101–59 victory over Notre Dame in the ACC tournament.

“Our defense was outstanding,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “It starts and ends with Walker Kessler, his ability to protect the rim. Walker cleans everything up. If there’s a better defender, rim protector and shot blocker in the country, I haven’t seen him.”

LSU missed its first 16 field-goal attempts of the game, with Kessler blocking three of them.


Garrison Brooks’ Mississippi State team also won its SEC opener at home, beating Arkansas 81–68 Wednesday. But he struggled offensively, missing all six shots and collecting two points and 10 rebounds.

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That was the fewest points for Brooks since he scored two for Carolina on March 15, 2019, in a 74–73 loss to Duke in an ACC tournament semifinal in Charlotte. It was his first game without a field goal since going 0 of 5 and scored all seven points from the free-throw line on Feb. 11, 2020, in UNC’s 74–57 loss at Wake Forest.

On the plus side, it was his third double-digit rebounding game of the season for the Bulldogs (10–3, 1-0 SEC) after only having five such games last season for the Tar Heels.


Brandon Huffman tied his career-high with 20 points in 19 minutes of Jacksonville State’s 123–59 home win Tuesday over Carver College.

That equaled the 20 points he scored for the Gamecocks (7–6) last season on Jan. 23 in a 76–70 victory at Austin Peay.

Huffman had five rebounds, two blocks and a steal against Carver.

How the seven former Tar Heels did

Garrison Brooks, Mississippi State center
81
68 Wednesday win vs. Arkansas — Started; 28 minutes, 2 points, 0–6 FG, 0–2 3FG, 2–2 FT, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, +7
Season statistics — 13 games, 13 starts, 10.9 points, 46.7 FG%, 40.0% 3FG%, 78.3% FT%, 6.8 rebounds; season totals of 8 assists, 8 blocks, 4 steals
Up next — 9 p.m. Wednesday at Missouri, SEC Network; 8:30 Saturday, Jan. 8, at Mississippi, SEC Network
———————————————
Jeremiah Francis, New Mexico guard
Tuesday vs. Colorado State —
Postponed because of COVID-19 issues in the Colorado State program
Season statistics —
5 games, 2.2 points, 38.5% FG, 1–3 3FG; season totals of 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 block
Up next — 9 p.m. Saturday at Nevada, FS1; 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8 vs. Utah State, CBS Sports Network
———————————————
Brandon Huffman, Jacksonville State forward/center
123–59 Tuesday win vs. Carver —
Started; 19 minutes, 20 points, 9–11 FG, 0–1 3FG, 2–2 FT, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2 blocks, 1 steal
Season statistics — 13 games, 13 starts, 10.2 points, 63.0 FG%, 63.8 FT%, 5.7 rebounds; season totals of 3 assists, 21 turnovers, 14 blocks and 6 steals
Up next — 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. Bellarmine, ESPN+; 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8 at North Alabama
———————————————
Walker Kessler, Auburn forward/center
70–55
Wednesday win vs. LSU — Started; 29 minutes, 16 points, 6–8 FG, 1–1 3FG, 3–4 FT, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 11 blocks, +19
Season statistics — 13 games, 13 starts, 10.0 points, 56.7 FG%, 18.2% 3FG, 57.1 FT%, 7.4 rebounds; season totals of 12 assists, 57 blocks, 14 steals
Up next — 6:30 Tuesday at South Carolina, SEC Network; 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8 vs. Florida, ESPN2 or ESPNU
———————————————
Walker Miller, Monmouth forward
Program went on COVID-19 pause Thursday. It’s unclear when it will play next.
Season statistics —
13 games, 13 starts, 14.9 points, 48.9 FG%, 34.6 3FG%, 85.5 FT%, 6.8 rebounds; season totals of 11 assists, 13 blocks, 8 steals

———————————————
Andrew Platek, Siena guard
Out for the season after having surgery to repair a full tear in the Achilles tendon in his left leg
Season statistics — 5 games, 3 starts, 9.0 points, 40.9 FG%, 31.3 3FG%, 4–4 FT, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists
———————————————
Seventh Woods, Morgan State guard
Program on COVID-19 pause
Season statistics — 5 games, 2 starts, 7.6 points, 50.0 FG%, 28.6 3FG%, 1.6 rebounds; season total of 7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Next games still scheduled — 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8 at N.C. Central; 7:30 Monday, Jan. 10 at South Carolina State
———————————————

Photo via @AuburnMBB

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