Devan Cambridge caught fire again at just the right time.
And Auburn picked just the right time to let him let loose.
The freshman hit seven 3-pointers off the bench in the big moment last Saturday, scoring 21 points in Auburn’s win against LSU as first place in the SEC standings hung in the balance — with Cambridge letting fly make after make as all of Auburn Arena seemed to sense he was heating up.
It was certainly felt down the Auburn bench. At a certain point during Cambridge’s 3-ball barrage, fellow freshman Allen Flanigan was supposed to take his turn in the rotation and substitute in for Cambridge, but he selflessly convinced the coaches otherwise. “Coach, leave Devan in there. He’s rolling,” he said.
Cambridge scored 15 in overtime and drained two 3-pointers in overtime as Auburn won 91-90.
“That’s what Auburn basketball is all about,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.
Pearl said that postgame on the Auburn Sports Network radio broadcast of the game, also quoting Flanigan and recalling that story from the bench in the heat of the action. He said he told the team in the locker room after the game the exact same thing.
And it was clear to everyone watching that the play of Cambridge was just another example of what the freshman is capable of doing.
Cambridge ignited Auburn Arena once before earlier this season in SEC play, scoring a game-high 26 points in Auburn’s win over South Carolina back on Jan. 22. But he hadn’t scored at all in the four games since then — until he was called upon against LSU.
Regular starter Danjel Purifoy missed Saturday’s game with the flu, and when Auburn desperately needed Cambridge to step up, he did just that. He finished 7-of-11 shooting and 7-of-10 from 3-point range while also adding three rebounds.
“Coach told us we needed to step up,” Cambridge said after the win. “Somebody’s got to step up. That’s what I came to do.”
Seniors guards Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick scored 26 points and 23 points, respectively. With Cambridge added to the backcourt, they combined for 70 between the three of them alone.
“It was huge. It was just huge,” Pearl said of the contributions from Cambridge. “Devan, obviously you can see, when he’s going he’s got no fear. But he needs to be able to find a way — and he will, he’s still young — to find a way to play more consistently. Effort, energy on the defensive end, do other things.
“But he gives us a dimension, another weapon.”
His scoring has come in big bunches. Outside those shooting explosions against LSU and South Carolina, Cambridge has only scored four points in Auburn’s eight other SEC games, chipping in two points each in games against Vanderbilt and Florida.
But as Pearl said, he’s an added weapon in Auburn’s arsenal, and as was evident on Saturday, Cambridge is capable of heating up even in the biggest games and even when he’s needed the most.
He could be called upon Wednesday when Auburn continues its season against rival Alabama.
Auburn (21-2 overall, 8-2 SEC) hosts Alabama (13-10, 5-5) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Auburn Arena. The game is set to be televised on ESPN2.
And it will mark a revenge game for Auburn, after its perfect start to the season was spoiled on Jan. 15 in Tuscaloosa.
Auburn will surely call on all the firepower it can get to try to blast the Tide and erase that nasty memory.
After Saturday, add Cambridge as another weapon capable of changing the game.