Upon Further Review: Tigers Bounced Back Against UGA
Auburn fans were mystified by what happened last week when the Tigers opened SEC play in The Pavilion against Ole Miss. Sitting at No. 11 in the country, the Tigers held a 65 percent chance to beat Ole Miss, according to the ESPN BPI. However, Auburn came out flat after an 11-day layover and never led the Rebels.
Coach Bruce Pearl isn’t one to make excuses and typically puts the onus exactly where it belongs. Despite usually holding his team accountable, he spoke about the effects of such a long layover between Auburn’s last nonconference game and the SEC opener. There’s no doubt that being the last team in the SEC to start conference play hurt and that it is nearly impossible to replicate game situations. Still, Auburn didn’t just look like a team needing to get back in the swing of things, the team looked lost.
That was most evident in the front court where Auburn should be one of the best teams in the country. This conversation should start and end with Austin Wiley, supposedly a legitimate NBA first rounder. Pearl, understandably, brought Wiley along slowly at the beginning of the year, but when it was time for the big man to shine, he didn’t just look out of place for a potential NBA player, he looked lost as an SEC center.
Sure, Auburn wasn’t good from beyond the arc as the Tigers went a combined 36 percent. They were even worse from inside the arc and in the paint, where Wiley and Anfernee McLemore were a combined 0–8 and Horace Spencer was 2–4 off the bench. Auburn had just six points in the paint all game. The Tigers desperately needed to recover from a combined 9–28 three-point stat from guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown sank seven long balls, but he was essentially chunking up prayers late in the game.
There were other struggles, namely the Tigers 9–17 stat from the charity stripe. Still, even if Auburn hit those other eight free throws, they still wouldn’t have won. Credit the Ole Miss staff for implementing a fantastic game plan that kept Auburn’s guards from never having the ability to get a clean look from the outside. The Rebels put tremendous pressure on Auburn’s guards as they crossed in to their half-court offense.
Going into this game, the average fan would say that Auburn’s front court, with its talent and depth, should be good enough to take care of that kind of pressure. Yet the big men, Wiley in particular, have had tremendous trouble in handling the basketball and being out-timed on the boards. Without the big men able to control the paint, Auburn fell by 15.
The SEC is off to a strange start as Ole Miss took down No. 15 Mississippi State, and Bama took down Kentucky. There were upsets throughout the NCAA this weekend, and Auburn’s bounce back against UGA likely will help keep the Tigers from dropping too far in the rankings.
Welcoming Georgia for the home SEC opener inside Auburn Arena, the Tigers put on a show for fans as they laid a 93–78 second half beatdown on the ‘Dogs.
Auburn cleaned up almost all of the issues that plagued it against Ole Miss, starting with a 12–25 three-point stat, good enough for 47 percent. The Tigers shot a 76 percent mark from the line on a 14–17 performance. Inside the arc, the Tigers were a much improved 34–68. The trio of Wiley, McLemore and Spencer were 12–20.
More on Tiger beatdown of UGA after the jump.
Auburn led UGA in offensive rebounds, 17–12. The Auburn guard duo of Harper and Brown led the way with Harper’s 22 being tops. Brown’s 15 was a typical effort, but he was matched by McLemore, who led Auburn with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.
While he didn’t start for the Tigers, he out played Wiley once again. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see McLemore earn a start.
Up next is Texas A&M as it welcomes Auburn to Reed Arena on Wednesday.
Billy Kennedy’s 2018-2019 squad is struggling as it has posted a 1–2 record in conference and a 7–7 overall mark. Sophomore TJ Starks leads the Aggies. The struggles of the Aggies are obvious as a quick look at Stark’s stats shows a fairly mediocre player leading TAMU. He is a high-volume shooter, having taken no less than 12 shots in his last five contests, but averages about 15. He shoots just 25 percent from beyond the arc and just 37 percent from inside the arc. However, he is a decent free throw shooter. But Auburn will be fine as long as Bryce Brown can make him take contested shots from the outside and Auburn’s big men can cleanly protect the rim.
Of course, Auburn has a way of bringing out the best in its opponents, and it isn’t usually the lead man for the club. Bryce Brown has typically done a fantastic job of shutting down hot-shooting guards, but opponents have managed to have a secondary player have a phenomenal day.
In its buzzer-beater win against Alabama on Saturday, TAMU’s junior forward Josh Nebo hit 21 points. Nebo couldn’t miss with 10–12 shooting and four blocks. It was an amazing performance for a guy who had just 12 points in his last three games, although he has been an effective rim protector.
TAMU let Alabama’s John Petty come off the bench and do what he has done to Auburn: knock down three after three. Petty was 6–11 and paced a poor outside performance by the Tide. Will Bryce Brown and Jared Harper be able to exploit the Aggies from the outside? Probably. But that isn’t the player that Auburn really needs to catch fire.
Chuma Okeke is a stretch player that can do it all, but he has just nine points in the two conference games thus far. He has a nine-game streak with at least one block. However, he is averaging almost as many fouls than points the last two games and needs to have a break-out performance.
Obviously, the super athletic McLemore is a key to an Auburn win as he is able to play multiple positions and do so with style.
The Tiger player to watch is Malik Dunbar, who has quietly had three straight 11-point performances and scored in double digits in four out of the last five games. Sure, Malik had some bone-headed moments, such as an air-ball free throw or three-point attempt (or two). But no player tries to make a positive impact quite like Dunbar. He has an almost LeBron James physicality to him at 6′ 6″, 230 pounds. He gets to the rim. He gets to the line. He can hit the long ball. And, he is doing it in under 20 minutes of game time. If Auburn can get into a position with a decent lead late, Dunbar can shut the game down and frequently does it with a rim-rocking dunk.
The Tigers and Aggies tip off at 6:00 PM on ESPNU.