Welcome back to The 3-Pointer, where we’ll look at Auburn’s developments in her former pair of games, the team’s Player of the Week, and what’s next on the agenda.
On the heels of a five-game winning streak, but facing much improved competition, Auburn suffered a modest 16-point loss at home to Texas A&M before falling to a thrilling West Virginia contest in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Nevertheless, the Tigers’ streak of top program in the polls continued, barely reaching No. 25 in Monday’s AP rankings. Most importantly, Auburn is still expected to emerge in the NCAA tournament field, with two first-quarter wins and only five losses on the season. But a grueling stretch of the schedule is heating up, and games like Georgia at home Wednesday have become complete matches you can’t lose.
week under review
There is no reason to panic.
A dose of reality – or rather, schedule power – awaits the Tigers after their five-game winning streak. It was all working out well for Auburn against the likes of Ole Miss, LSU, and South Carolina. These are also three of the worst teams in the conference.
And Bruce Pearl recognized two weeks ago. He was candid with reporters, saying his team beat teams they should have beaten. Now, that doesn’t take away from back-to-back wins, both by more than 15 points, over LSU and South Carolina. But the Tigers knew, starting with Texas A&M that went into the game 5-1 in the league, that few freebies were left in the schedule for the rest of the season.
But there were no panicked tendencies in any of Auburn’s losses this week. They were in that a pair of teams shooting 3 points below average got hot, even despite Auburn’s better defensive efforts. The combined results were 41 percent shooting from behind the arc by the Aggies and the Mountaineers against an Auburn defense that last week ranked second nationally in 3-point percentage allowed.
Both matches were significantly changed by hot shooting extensions of the opponent. Texas A&M made 6 of 9 shots from 3-point range to start the game, clawing its way out of an early 10-2 hole and silencing the fiery Neville Arena crowd. This changed the pace of the game and forced the Tigers to play catch-up. For West Virginia, a couple are missing Eric StephensonAuburn might have won. The former Wichita, Washington, and South Carolina State guard, whom Pearl recruited from the transfer gate last year, has been making ridiculous shots by the end of the game, holding the Mountaineers to 31 points on 7-of-10 shooting from behind the arc.
He got up once and hit a deep triple over both Wendell Green Jr And Zip JasperLate in the game, West Virginia backed up possessions by dropping wide into the corner and hitting another. Allen Flanigan Compete the whole shot.
Auburn was attacked on both ends of the field, in both losses, and could not recover quickly enough. The Tigers combined for 16 turnovers in the first half of both games and couldn’t defend consistently, but both ways improved in the second half. After halftime, Texas A&M was off the ground 8 of 24 only, and West Virginia made four baskets of just 2 points.
At Morgantown, an offensive clinic for the Tigers followed in the second half: 48 points on 56 percent shooting, only five turnovers and a 56 percent assist rate. It was almost enough to return 16 points, like Johnny BroomAnd KD Johnson And Jaylen Williams They were all excellent after the break.
But, then again, 40 Minutes of Basketball continues to have Auburn dodging against good opponents. Broome continues to play as one of the best seniors in the conference, but he missed his first three shots in the paint, had a serious problem and didn’t score in the first half. Johnson had arguably his best game of the season, including a great shot and steal in the final minutes to keep Auburn in, but he started 1-of-5 from the floor with two turnovers.
Then there is the case of Green Jr.. It should be obvious to Auburn fans at this point that the Tigers will be a much more effective offense when he plays well. He went 1-for-9 from beyond the arc with eight total turnovers in the two losses. Texas A&M in particular wasn’t a bad game for a rookie by any means, but it continued to underline how much Auburn needed his production.
At the end of the day, none of the loss is really detrimental to Auburn’s championship restart – especially not a 3-point loss in a four-way game on the road in West Virginia. Texas A&M is a top 50 team in both KenPom and the NCAA’s NET rankings, and the Mountaineers are in the top 20.
The problem is, it doesn’t get any easier. As Pearl reported, Auburn missed out on a “prize” at West Virginia by letting the chance to win a Quad 1 win slip away. These would be extremely valuable to the Tigers’ resume – but there are certainly plenty of opportunities left. A whopping six of Auburn’s remaining 10 games are currently Quadruple 1 games, including three in a row after the Georgia game on Wednesday: at Tennessee, at Texas A&M and at home against Alabama. Auburn now needs to focus on not suffering a second straight home loss.
Two straight losses is never fun, but to say that Auburn is now on the outside of the NCAA Tournament is completely false. Yes, the Pearl needs at least two more quality wins to avoid sweating on Selection Sunday. But for now, no single, respectable bow drop has Auburn even on the bubble, and the Tigers are 31st in the Nets and 29th in Kinbaum.
Lots of basketball left. Auburn has its fair share of issues to settle. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And panicking about March, when Auburn has had nearly 1.5 bad losses this season and February hasn’t even started, is a waste of time.
Player of the Week: Jaylen Williams
It’s been nearly a month since Williams had what could be considered an off night.
His four-game winning streak ended in double figures with 8 points against Texas A&M, but he made up for it with flawless passing: a season-high seven assists and zero losses. Williams followed with 18 points, including a huge 3 in the final minute to keep it to a game of one possession, as well as five boards, a steal and a block.
As Pearl has stated several times this season, it’s never a bad idea to hurl more insult at Williams, and it would be beneficial for the Tigers to do so going forward. Williams shot 10 out of 16 last week, and it’s becoming clear that he feels more comfortable the more he shoots. He attempted eight or more field goals in 12 games, and only three times in those games did he shoot worse than 45 percent from the floor.
Williams is the only Auburn player to lead in the team’s top 5 in all of the following categories: scoring, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks this season. He ranks third in the top three as well.
Auburn doesn’t get much production when Williams has to go on the bench. Newbie and former 5 star potential Yohan Traore Seems off rotation now then Chris Moore He returned, though Moore sees limited minutes and occasionally plays out of position in the fourth.
Broome should also get a nod here, after scoring 31 points on 54 percent shooting in the two losses, as well as seven rebounds in both games. He flirted with a triple-double against Texas A&M, with seven boards and seven blocks. He got off to a slow start against the Mountaineers but exploded in the second half, also dishing out five assists on the season.
At this point, it seems appropriate to acknowledge that Auburn has replaced the All-American forward duo Walker Kessler And Jabari Smith As it can be. Williams and Broome are both capable two-way big guys who are instrumental in the Tigers’ nightly success.
The Auburn frontcourt is easily the most consistent part of this team.
* Wednesday vs. Georgia (6 p.m. CST, SEC Network)
* Saturday in Tennessee (1pm CET, EST)
What has Georgia been up to since winning their first meet at Auburn – and sparking a winning streak for the Tigers? In short, the Bulldogs still look like an improved team in the first year under Mike White.
Georgia is 3-4 since its win over Auburn, though three of those losses are road games in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida. With four more SEC wins over their last 10 games, the Bulldogs will have their best conference record since 2016-17. Georgia has also not swept Auburn in a season series since the same season.
Of course, slowing down the Bulldogs’ guard duo caused Auburn so much trouble last time – Terry Roberts And Carrio Oquendo, which gained 26 and 17 points, respectively – will be a top priority for the Tigers. They combined for 37 Georgia’s scoring all season.
However, the road games haven’t been kind to Georgia this season, especially on defense. Team White is 1-5 in real road games, with the only win coming over Ole Miss. In those six games, the Bulldogs allow 75.8 points.
So this might be a fitting outing for the Auburn group who struggled almost top to bottom in Athens. Broome was very effective (22 points and 12 rebounds), and Flanigan contributed 11 points on 50 percent shooting. Everyone else only went 10 of 42 from the ground.
Save for a mid-February home game against Ole Miss, this is the winningest game remaining on Auburn’s schedule.
Meanwhile, the mile on the road in Knoxville may be the toughest contest of the season. Tennessee, which has been in Kienbaum’s top three most of the season, was ranked No. 2 in the AP poll on Monday after dealing with a top-10 team in Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Many call this Rick Barnes team the best Tennessee team. The Volunteers are positively bullshit on defense, leading the country in scoring defense, total field goal percentage and 3-point defense.
Tennessee’s field goal and three-point defense would be the best nationally since 1999-00 if the season ended today (via UT Game Notes). pic.twitter.com/c3X75c4W97
– Ryan Shumpert (@rschump00) January 30, 2023
They’ve won nine of their last ten games, losing alone to Kentucky in Knoxville.
What is the scheme for upsetting Wildcats? For starters, Tennessee has shot just 3-of-21 from outside the arc, a trend the Vols have fallen victim to quite a few times, and is currently No. 175 nationally in 3-point percentage. Kentucky also dominated on the glass, with a plus-17 advantage on the boards. On the one hand, this was an uncharacteristic performance for a Tennessee team that was among the top 10 teams in the country in rebounding rate.
The Vols get a very balanced offense from their rotation, with three highly capable guards – Zakai ZieglerAnd Santiago Vescovi And Tyrkey key Generate the #4 assist rate in college basketball. Oliver Nakamhua (11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds) He took a good step forward after his season ended with an ankle injury last year. Student and former 5-star recruit Julian Phillips, whom Auburn recruited solidly, is an explosive two-way athlete on the wing. Add veterans like Josiah Jordan James And Eros PlavsikTennessee gets defensive and effective scoring from its entire lineup.
Both trips to Knoxville and Tuscaloosa are opportunities for Auburn to pull off massive, defining victories, and Pearl has beaten a lot of Barnes’ best teams in recent seasons. The Tigers, on the other hand, are not going to lose to two of the four or five best teams in the country.
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