Tigers Earn National Respect

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tigers Earn National Respect


For a stretch of two or three weeks, it seemed like the moment would never come. The wins were piling up but Auburn Basketball was not receiving any national attention outside of the passing comments of how good this team could be with the two suspended players. After all, it was the team across the state that was garnering all the positive attention, with their preseason ranking and near loss to a national brand while having only three players on the court. 

Auburn completed the non-conference slate with solid wins against UAB, Middle State,  and UConn. 

That wasn’t a new feat for the Bruce Pearl-led squad. The previous iterations of the Tigers under Pearl had done well enough in the non-conference schedule. It was the meat of the SEC that had stymied the progress, at least in terms of wins and losses. But to be fair, Auburn had been growing even in those tough periods. Could Auburn overachieve the 4-14 predicted record? 

Auburn announced itself as a not only a force within the SEC, but a team worthy of national respect as it overcame multiple streaks to knock off Tennessee last week. As a result the Tigers come in ranked No.22 in this week’s AP poll.

Basketball is a funny sport when you just look at a single data point. For example, Auburn beat Kentucky two years ago, but what did that win mean on a national level? Virtually nothing. So, when Auburn slayed the beast of streaks against UT and then UT beat Kentucky this weekend, it wouldn’t have mattered much if Auburn couldn’t back it up against No. 22 Arkansas. Any follower of Auburn basketball in the last 18 or so years would tell you that Auburn will just be Auburn. And while this team has looked like world beaters at times, it would surprised virtually no one for the Tigers to have won in Knoxville for the first time in forever against a ranked UT team just to turnaround and lay an egg at home against the Hogs. 

Still, The Jungle was packed and loud when Auburn hosted the 22nd ranked Hogs. It could have been a defining moment, either way. But Auburn showed up, and showed out and they did so on national television. 

Despite officiating taking wild swings from ultra conservative to a nearly “call your own foul” mentality, the Tigers did what they haven’t been able to do in the past: adapt and overcome. In the meantime, they took down the Hogs and they did it by double digits. 

There were several more streaks broken in Auburn Arena: beating a ranked team for example and beating ranked teams back-to-back. 

And then there’s a first that will happen tonight when Auburn host a ranked team for the first time ever, in Auburn Arena when the Ole Miss Rebels come to town. The 14-1 (2-0) Tigers have the third longest winning streak and the longest at Auburn in a very long time. They sit at the top of the SEC, at least for the moment. 

How did they get here?

Phenomenal perimeter defense kept the top-shooting Hogs from hitting the long ball. They shot just 21 percent despite being a 40 percent shooting team. Auburn compounded the Hogs’ issues by shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc. That’s right, 55 percent. It wasn’t just the starters like Bryce Brown, Mustapha Heron or Jared Harper doing the damage either.

The Auburn bench was 3-6 from downtown but Heron lead the way with 3-4 shooting. Auburn also shot 53 percent from the field and the Tigers had five players in double digits. Despite getting only six points from big men Anfernee McLemore and Horace Spencer, Auburn’s bench stepped up with 24 points. Mustapha Heron led the Tigers with 17 points. Jared Harper had eight assists and the Tigers committed only nine turnovers. 

Auburn’s sharp shooting was key as the Tigers’ big men struggled getting boards just as much as getting points. The Hogs had nine offensive boards to Auburn’s five. The Tigers also had a down game on blocks, only registering three. 

Once again, it doesn’t matter how you win or who does the damage, as long as you win. Auburn continues to be incredibly impressive in just how versatile they are, and not just in how they score but with who. Bryce Brown can take the ball to the hole and isn’t just a long distance shooter anymore. Chuma Okeke is a great power forward, but he is killing it from beyond the arc. 

Auburn gets a 9-6 Ole Miss squad that is ranked third in the SEC after playing three SEC games already. The Rebels guard Deandre Burnett does the damage averaging almost 15 points per game and almost five assists per contest. He is hitting about 39 percent of his threes, so it is imperative for Bryce Brown to lock him down. The Rebels get the rest of their production from Terence Davis, the other guard, who kicks in around 13 points per game. 

Look for Auburn to get Horace Spencer and Anfernee McLemore involved early tonight. 

The Tigers tip at 8PM on ESPNU. Make sure to follow me @Best5Zach as I live tweet in-game action. 

The post Tigers Earn National Respect appeared first on Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog.

from Track 'Em Tigers, Auburn's oldest and most read independent blog

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