A Rough Matchup Ahead
This should be a physical game, and I like having Horace Spencer on our side!
War Eagle, everybody! This afternoon, Auburn will play its second game in the SEC Basketball Tournament against the #4 seed South Carolina Gamecocks. Auburn advanced after defeating Missouri yesterday afternoon, 81–71. It was a fist-fight of a game, and Auburn’s bench really came through and preserved the victory.
If yesterday’s game is any indication, officials aren’t calling many fouls in this tournament. There was lots of hard contact that wasn’t called. I remember in the 2nd half seeing Bryce Brown get elbowed to the deck on back to back plays with no calls. I fully expect South Carolina to try to feed big man Chris Silva the ball in the paint, and elbows will be flying. Auburn will need quality defense from Chuma Okeke, Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer against Silva.
When these two teams met earlier this season, the officials were a major factor. The Gamecocks were able to mug Auburn shooters with impunity. Meanwhile, if McLemore or Spencer even breathed on Silva, a foul was called. Spencer and McLemore both got in foul trouble, and Silva went off for 32 points in an 80–77 win in Columbia. Even as poorly as Auburn played on defense, the team had a chance to tie it in the waning seconds, but a 3 pointer went in and out, and Auburn lost.
The key to beating South Carolina is to shut Chris Silva down. Two weeks ago, Missouri got Silva in foul trouble, he only played 15 minutes, and Missouri beat South Carolina by 15 points. Much like Auburn, South Carolina has some shooting guards to contend with. A. J. Lawson is 2nd on the team in scoring and likes to light it up from long range. He sat out the last 3 games of the season with an ankle injury but has practiced leading up to this game. If Lawson can’t go, the Gamecocks use Hassani Gravett. Gravett is averaging 41 percent on 3-point shots.
If thise game does have fouls being called regularly, Auburn has a big depth advantage. Players off the bench were key in the win over Missouri. Horace Spencer had a double-double, and was a force in the paint on both ends. Malik Dunbar had quality minutes underneath the basket, as well. When point guard Jared Harper had an off night, Auburn got good quality point play from J’Von McCormick. Danjel Purifoy came in late, hit a couple of 3 pointers, and really hustled for key rebounds.
Another key for Auburn is to get Bryce Brown going early. Brown had no points in the first half against Missouri, but his 3-point shooting in the second half really allowed Auburn to pull away. Every time Mizzou made a little run, there was Brown to throw down another 3.
Normally, you’d expect South Carolina to be the fresher team, having had byes through the first two days of the tournament while Auburn had a physical opener. However, Auburn routinely gives nine different players significant minutes without sacrificing much of anything regarding the level of play on the floor. Bryce Brown had 35 minutes last night, but no one else on the team had more than the 27 minutes posted by Jared Harper. Plus, Auburn knocked the rust off last night and should be able to play fast and loose this afternoon.
Was it just me, or did those rims yesterday seem rattley and loose? I believe that favors teams that like outside shots. A stiff rim seems to kick balls out, whereas a loose rim will give when hit, and balls slip over and in. Here’s hoping the folks putting on this event in Nashville don’t find their wrenches before the tournament is over! War Eagle!