Auburn Picks Up First SEC Win
USA TODAY Sports
Well, it sure wasn’t pretty, and it certainly didn’t look easy, but Auburn is leaving Missouri with its first SEC win of the year. The loss of Danjel Purifoy, who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, certainly hurt the Tigers last night, as the overall energy on the court was lacking.
Picking up the slack, however, was Mustapha Heron. And although Heron is currently playing through a sprained ankle of his own, the freshman guard delivered a strong performance on Tuesday night, scoring 16 points to make up for Purifoy’s absence. Just imagine the possibilities for this team with Purifoy and Heron both healthy and playing to their full potentials.
I’ve seen some pretty harsh criticism directed toward Bruce Pearl recently on Twitter. It’s important for fans to remember that Auburn is not a traditional basketball school. So what the third-year head coach has already been able to accomplish on the recruiting trail is simply remarkable.
Give this team and Coach Pearl some more time. There are four freshman in the starting lineup, and each is extremely talented. There is no doubt in my mind that if this team is able to stay intact over the course of the next couple seasons, Auburn will receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This team is on the cusp of greatness, so patience is key.
Last night’s game was a “must-win” in the sense that an 0–4 start to the SEC campaign would make it incredibly difficult to bounce back for such a young team. I’m looking for Auburn to play more physically, shoot more consistently, and attack the glass with more assertiveness and urgency. There’s no reason for this team to allow 25 offensive rebounds in any game, let alone one against a very poor Mizzou squad.
Not to mention, a 54.5 free-throw percentage is inexcusable and will lose Auburn some games down the stretch if this aspect of its game doesn’t improve. Someone has got to work with LaRon Smith on his shooting form, as he shot an abysmal 0-for-6 from the line.
Looking ahead, Auburn heads to Lexington to take on a Kentucky team that is seeking revenge following Auburn’s upset victory last season on the Plains. It’s unclear whether Purifoy will be healthy enough to play on Saturday, but with or without him, I don’t think the Tigers have a shot.
Either way, it will be a great opportunity for Auburn’s freshmen to get some big game experience on the road.