BIRMINGHAM — Johni Broome and Allen Flanigan looked down at the table in front of them in the hope to stifle their laughs.
It didn’t quite work out as planned Thursday.
K.D. Johnson, seated right between his Auburn teammates, normally finds a way to be entertaining — whether on accident or on purpose.
It could be the result of trash talking an Iowa cheerleader during the Tigers’ 83-75 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament or perhaps flipping over an opposing player trying to go for a block at the end of the first half. It might even be the faces — “weird faces” it was described to him — he makes at the crowd after a play.
Whatever it is, people want to know, what is up with that?
“When you have some fans that’s loaded like that and it’s March Madness, I don’t know,” Johnson said of his interactions with fans. “It just feels good to do that.”
Even Auburn coach Bruce Pearl couldn’t help but chuckle when asked about Johnson's personality. It’s certainly unique.
A starter a year ago when the Tigers spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the country, it’s now Johnson’s job to provide a spark off the bench.
“Unpredictable,” Pearl said of the guard’s persona. “But right now, he’s in a good spot. He’s really good in the locker room, he’s really good with his teammates, he’s a really good friend to a lot of the guys. He plays with a lot of emotion and passion.
“You know, he giveth and he taketh away. And he’s been giveth more lately.”
Johnson has scored in double figures in three of the team’s last four games. He finished with 21 points on March 1 at Alabama, 20 on March 9 against Arkansas in the SEC tournament and 11 against Iowa on Thursday. The only game he didn’t was against Tennessee on March 4. He finished that game with three points.
He’s 16-of-33 from the floor during that stretch.
“I started off the season very sluggish and I wasn’t there for my team,” Johnson said. “I wanted to pay them back by giving them 110% of myself — my body, my mind, everything. Just to do whatever makes us go farther in this March Madness.”
The Tigers (21-12) will play Houston in a second-round game at 6:10 p.m. Saturday, making it the 11th straight time Auburn has made it past the first round when it has reached the tournament.
Broome and Flanigan each finished with double-doubles for the Tigers. Broome had 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Flanigan added 10 points and 10 boards. Wendell Green Jr. had 15 points, Tre Donaldson and Jaylin Williams 11.
Payton Sandfort’s 21 points led Iowa (19-14). Kris Murray added 15 and Filip Rebraca 14.
“I feel like we’re a very confident group,” Broome said when asked how Auburn was feeling after an up-and-down regular season. “We’re playing in March Madness, you know? We shouldn’t need a lot of extra confidence. Being on the biggest stage should give us confidence in itself.”
Although it never hurts to have a player to provide that spark when needed.
Johnson, you’re up.
“It’s March,” Johnson said. “So it’s the start of a new leaf.”
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