Auburn hopes to bounce back at Vanderbilt

·3 min read

Auburn travels to Nashville to face Vanderbilt in Southeastern Conference play Tuesday night for their only scheduled meeting this season. Both enter this one coming off losses in games decided in the final seconds.

The Tigers (10-10, 4-7 SEC) lost an 86-84 overtime decision at Ole Miss on Saturday. The Rebels' Devontae Shuler hit a long jumper at the buzzer to decide that one.

Vanderbilt (5-9, 1-7), meanwhile, came from behind on the road to tie Georgia in the final minute, but the Bulldogs hit three free throws in the final 15 seconds to hang on.

Auburn has little at stake, given its self-imposed postseason ban will also keep them out of the conference tournament. However, the Tigers would love to recapture the momentum found when they won four of their first six games with point guard Sharife Cooper, who became eligible for a 94-90 loss to Alabama on Jan. 9.

Cooper (20.3 ppg, 8.9 apg) scored 15 points and dished out 14 assists -- his third double-double -- in Saturday's loss. Devan Cambridge, Allen Flanigan and Jaylin Williams each scored 16.

"Our guys have done a really good job of competing and playing hard," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "We played really well (Saturday). We did a lot of really good things. You score 84 against Ole Miss? Man. Now, I thought we had some careless turnovers."

The Tigers had 17 turnovers Saturday, just above their season average of 16.4. Defense continues to be an issue for Auburn, which allowed 82 points or more for the fifth-consecutive game. It allows 79.2 per contest.

"We needed one stop, and we get into a second overtime," Cooper said after Saturday's defeat. "We had a decent defensive possession. (Shuler) just made a tough shot. You just give him credit."

The Commodores also don't have much at stake other than trying to avoid a third-straight basement finish in the 14-team SEC, and with that, being one of the two teams playing in the league tournament's opening round.

The battle between Cooper and his point guard counterpart -- Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr., who may be the league's most similar player to Cooper -- will be interesting.

According to KenPom.com, sophomore Pippen (21.0 ppg, 5.4 apg) ends 34.2 percent of Vanderbilt's possessions with a shot or a turnover, a mark surpassed within the league only by Cooper (34.5 percent).

Pippen's 12 points at Georgia (on 12 shots) was a season low for him in league play. The sophomore had five assists to four turnovers while adding four steals.

"There's some things that we've gotta clean up," Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said after Saturday's game. "I think we had a little bit of a letdown when we went to the bench just from a focus standpoint and making sure that we're doing the things we talk about in the game plan. (Georgia) got a lot of easy opportunities from their second group."

Vanderbilt's best player on Saturday was Dylan Disu (14.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg), who led the team in points (15), rebounds (six) and blocks (three).

Disu has been the only constant besides Pippen, but the Commodores hope they'll get more from Max Evans (6.5 ppg), who scored in double figures (10) for the second-straight game following a 29-point outburst against South Carolina.

Scoring balance has not been a problem for Auburn, which has three more players in Flanigan (14.1), Justin Powell (11.7) and Williams (11.3) averaging in double figures.

--Field Level Media