After a 12-1 start to the season for LSU men’s basketball and a win over a top-10 opponent in Arkansas, nothing has gone right for this team.
Following an ugly, 106-66 loss on the road to Alabama on Saturday, the Tigers have now dropped four-straight games and sit at 1-4 in SEC play. With upcoming contests against Auburn, Tennessee and a rematch against the Razorbacks — all of which are ranked opponents — things could really spiral here for Matt McMahon’s team.
Luckily, the first two of those contests come at home in the PMAC. First up is the Tigers from the plains, who are 14-3 on the season with a 4-1 record in SEC play. No. 16 Auburn lost to Georgia earlier in conference play but has since ripped off three straight wins and will be looking for a fourth on Wednesday night in a game that tips off at 6 p.m. CT.
To preview the contest, we caught up with Auburn Wire managing editor Taylor Jones to preview the matchup. Here’s what he had to say about this game.
This is an Auburn basketball program that struggled for so long to find consistent success. How has Bruce Pearl rebuilt this program into one of the SEC’s best year-in and year-out?
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He’s one of the more fan-friendly coaches currently on campus. Pearl began promoting the program from the beginning by reaching out to students and members of the community. Once he won over the Auburn faithful, he began using the gameday crowd as a recruiting tool, which of course has turned into on-court success. His ability to send players to the NBA is something that has improved Auburn’s product and recruiting as well, which fans are still getting used to.
Losing players of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler’s caliber is never easy, but Auburn returned a lot with players like Wendell Green, KD Johnson, etc. How would you evaluate the play of this veteran group after a 14-3 start?
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Auburn is playing as well as I had anticipated, but they are earning their wins in a different way than anticipated. Freshmen [autotag]Yohan Traore[/autotag] and Chance Westry performed well in Auburn’s overseas trip to Israel over the summer, but several factors have limited their production this season. To make up for the lack of offensive production at times, Auburn has had to rely heavily on its defense to limit opposing scores.
Morehead State transfer Johni Broome has already become one of the best players in the SEC, ranking top five in field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks. Can you assess his impact so far on this team?
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Walker Kessler was an incredible defensive player in his one season in Auburn, and Broome has stepped up in a big way to fill the void left by Kessler. He has found ways to create possessions for Auburn by blocking shots and pulling down rebounds. His efforts have aided Auburn in many wins this season.
KJ Williams has already established himself as one of the best big men (and players overall) in the SEC. Will Auburn be able to slow him down?
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Auburn will need both Johni Broome and Jaylin Williams to be assets on both sides of the ball. As long as both players are solid, especially defensively, they will have a chance to slow down Williams. But it will be no easy task.
What went wrong for the Tigers in the loss to Georgia and near-disaster against Florida?
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Several factors went into both performances, including poor shooting. Auburn failed to convert 40% of their shots in both games and shot poorly from beyond the arc. In the loss to Georgia, foul trouble allowed the Bulldogs more opportunities to score. Georgia took 32 shots from the stripe and converted on 22 of them. It can not be stressed enough that Auburn needs to play strong defensively and receive some sort of aid offensively in order to succeed.
What does Auburn need to do to win its fourth straight game on Wednesday night?
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As good as Auburn has been at home, they struggle the most in road environments. Last Tuesday, Auburn trailed Ole Miss at halftime before ultimately storming back to win. The Tigers need a strong start, and can’t afford to let LSU get too comfortable. It all starts with Wendell Green Jr. It seems that Auburn succeeds more when Green sets the tone of the game early.
What’s your score prediction for this game?
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Despite LSU’s recent struggles, I see the Bayou Bengals giving Auburn fits until the end. I’ll say Auburn wins 70-63.