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Despite Odds, Bruce Pearl Has Brought Credibility as a Contender to Auburn Basketball

By on December 26th, 2017 in Basketball, News 7 Comments »

USA TODAY Sports

What Bruce Pearl has done this year with an undermanned basketball team is simply remarkable. With each passing game, he has the Tigers looking like an NCAA tournament team.

And on Saturday Auburn blew out the University of Connecticut; one of the nation’s most respected teams. Granted the 7–5 Huskies have struggled this season, but UConn is still one of college basketball’s storied programs, having won 18 league titles, made 33 NCAA appearances, and been seeded No. 1 five times. In addition the Huskies have won four national titles, the latest coming in 2014.

The Tigers wasted no time taking UConn to the woodshed, jumping on the Huskies from the start. With the game tied early at seven all, Auburn went on a 16–0 run and cruised to an 89–64 victory. The beatdown was really worse than the final score indicated as the Tigers led by as many as 36 points before emptying the bench.

This season may be Pearl’s best coaching effort of his career. He’s taken a team that was blindsided with the arrest of former assistant Chuck Person and the benching of Austin Wiley and Daniel Purifoy and shepherded them to their best start (11–1) in 18 years.

Many feared the turmoil would provide so much distraction that it would prevent the Tigers from having any type of productive season. Instead, Pearl has had the team focused like no team this r has seen on the Plains since Cliff Ellis roamed the court. That single-minded focus shows up on defense as well as on the foul line, both critical areas for any team to be successful.

“The focus is on the kids,” Pearl said, “because they’re the ones that have stayed together, and they’re the ones that wear that [Auburn name] on the front.” Maybe so, but Pearl is the one who has navigated them through the rough waters. And he’s also kept the fans involved through it all.

“What a treat for our fans to see UConn and see our Auburn team not only belong on the floor with them, but we outplayed them,” an exuberant Pearl said after the win. “We were brought here to bring credibility and competitiveness to men’s basketball. I’m pleased with that. It’s a big win for our program.”

While it “was” a big win, the real test will begin January 2nd when the Tigers begin SEC play against Tennessee. But, for now, Bruce Pearl has his team believing and playing with an unselfish chemistry, a combination that may just see the Tigers make their first NCAA appearance since 2003.

7 Comments

  1. GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

    Pearl gets the most out of his players. He has them hitting on all cylinders right now. Looks like we're going to have something to follow during the football off season.

  2. audude audude says:

    They are playing with confidence in their coach and system. Unselfish and team oriented is a real tough combination to beat!
    War Eagle!

  3. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    This team has what past Auburn team’s have not had: complete teamwork. So far, teams haven’t been able to lock down all the different aspects of Auburn’s game.

    HOWEVER: UConn’s program has been in severe decline since 2014 and they didn’t want to even show up to play Auburn. As stated, the match against a ranked UT squad looms large.

  4. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    For Auburn to be playing like this is really something especially without Austin Wiley on the court. Losing Purifoy was not that crucial not with the way Horace Spencer, Anfernee McLemore, Malik Dunbar, and Desean Murray have been playing. But if Wiley can return this season I think they definitely have a chance to be in the NCAA Tournament.

  5. AUNation AUNation says:

    Purifoy and Wiley did it to themselves by trying to, “have their cake and eat it too” but man, it’s a shame that the biggest missing piece of this team (Wiley) has to sit it out. I think they might be able to get back on the floor if some lawyer swings it into some type of, Sharks (agents) preying on kids, defense. But I still don’t know how I feel about it though. With the way this team is playing and the chemistry they have developed, do you even want to let those players back in? I told a buddy back when the Person announcement came that it is quite the testament to what Pearl has done that you can take two of the best players off this AU team and still have more talent on the floor than 90% of AUs teams throughout history. Unless they find some smoking gun that links Pearl directly to the allegations, AU better do everything they can to keep him happy.

    • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

      I don’t think so – I think they are done. And if this proves true, they should be. I’m so darn (not the word I really wanted to use) tired of Auburn being in the mindset of “if you ain’t cheating; you ain’t winning”… My high school principal always said, “If it’s right, do it, it if ain’t right, then just don’t do it.”.
      Those words have rang true many times in previous years as it relates to my life.

  6. […] what’s really so amazing about this team is how it has handled adversity. Despite the controversy that surrounded the start of the season and despite trailing by double digits in big games they […]