Regular Season Wrapup.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Regular Season Wrapup.

Samir Doughty was deadly against the Vols.

     War Eagle, everybody! Yesterday, Auburn wrapped up the basketball regular season with a resounding pummeling of the Tennessee Vols, 85-63 in Knoxville. The win came at a good time, breaking a 2 game losing streak, and giving the Tigers some momentum headed into the SEC Tournament in Nashville this week. The win over Tennessee put the Tiger overall record at 25-6, 12-6 in the SEC. Auburn secured the number 2 seed in the tournament.

     With the 2 seed, Auburn will be able to skip the first 2 days of the tournament. On Wednesday, only the bottom 4 seeds play, to reduce the field to 12 teams. On Thursday, the bottom 8 remaining teams play, reducing the field to 8 teams. The quarter-finals are on Friday, as all 8 teams play, to reduce the field to 4 teams. Saturday marks the semi-finals, as the top 4 teams play, and Sunday the last 2 remaining teams will play for the tournament championship.

     Auburn’s next game will be Friday evening at 6:00 PM. Auburn will play the winner of the Texas A&M vs. Missouri game. Should Auburn win that one, they will get the winner of 3 seed LSU’s bracket. The opponent could be 14 seed Vanderbilt, 11 seed Arkansas, 6 seed South Carolina, or 3 seed LSU. Auburn will not have to face regular season champion Kentucky unless both teams reach the final game. I would say that Auburn was fortunate how the seeding worked out. Dangerous teams like Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Kentucky all fell in the opposite bracket.

     The win over Tennessee was a welcome sight. In Auburn’s previous 2 games, stone-cold shooting doomed the Tigers to a loss at Kentucky, and the first home loss of the year, to Texas A&M. At Knoxville, the Auburn shots finally started falling. Samir Doughty led the way with an incredible 32 points.

     Auburn’s game plan seemed to change for this game. Auburn had been either taking a late 3 point shot, or trying to drive to the basket and draw a foul. The issue with this is that Auburn is not great shooting free throws, or 3 point shots this year. Auburn is averaging just 30.6 percent on 3-point attempts, and 67.4 percent at the foul line. Auburn is regularly out-shot in both areas this year. Auburn has been able to get teams in foul trouble, and mount a number of late comebacks. This doesn’t work so well on the road, however. Officials usually favor the home team when assessing fouls. This game, Auburn did a good job mixing in some intermediate shots. This forced Tennessee to double-up defend in the lane, and allowed Auburn to get shooters wide-open looks.

     Defensively, Auburn was able to take advantage of the fact that Tennessee does not have a true point guard. Jordan Bowden is filling in there, and he did have 17 points on the day, but he also had just 4 assists and 4 turnovers. Auburn guards J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty relentlessly hounded Tennessee efforts to inbound the ball and get it up the court. This resulted in 11 Tennessee turnovers, and it limited Tennessee’s offense, as they were having to struggle to get their offense set up. Auburn also did a great job of boxing out under the basket, and out-rebounded Tennessee 42-26.

     Tennessee was determined to pound the ball inside, and there was a lot of contact in this game. Austin Wiley controlled the lane while he was in there, but spent much of the game in foul trouble. Both Auburn centers Wiley, and Anfernee McLemore fouled out of the game, and Auburn had to finish the game with freshman Babatunde Akingbola in the game. He played the final 6 minutes, had no fouls, and 1 blocked shot, as well as altering a few Tennessee shots.

     Auburn also got valuable bench time from freshman Allen Flannigan, who had probably his best offensive game of the year, scoring 9 points. A couple of his shots were really good floaters from mid-range, with pressure in his face. Flannigan is a key player going into the SEC tournament. One of Auburn’s biggest weaknesses this season has been that head coach Bruce Pearl has been reluctant to rest Auburn starting guards McCormick and Doughty in tight ball games. Auburn will need to get some productive minutes out of Flannigan at guard, to advance very far in the tournament.

     I am hoping for another great year in the SEC, and NCAA tournaments, and that we get chances to celebrate a great bunch of young men this month. The team is going to look a lot different next year, as the team loses McCormick, Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore, and likely Isaac Okoro. Of the players that played against Tennessee, Allen Flannigan, Tyrell Jones, Devan Cambridge, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola and Jamal Johnson return next season.

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