It's been frustrating to watch, but the Tigers have dropped their last four basketball games since they beat Kentucky and Alabama within four days of each other. The loss to Florida was the worst of the season, but losses to Ole Miss and Oklahoma State came in games that weren't that far out of reach for Auburn. Even Tuesday's loss to LSU ended up being closer than fans thought, but the symptom persists—something just isn't clicking.
On top of this four-game losing streak, injuries, and a dropping off of team chemistry, it's beginning to appear that Danjel Purifoy won't see action at all this season. Bruce Pearl has expressed that TJ Dunans might be back before the season is over, but it might be too little, too late if the Tigers can't get their act together.
However, as dire as the situation appears, the Tigers (9-11, 3-6 SEC) are still within reach of the middle of SEC standings. Alabama also sits at 3-6 (and the Tide is 0-1 in this year's series against Auburn with a game in Tuscaloosa still to come), but post a better overall record at 12-9 (might be different if they had scheduled another school in the state, but that's none of my business). The next three teams sit at 4-5, and the next two are both 5-4, including today's opponent.
If Auburn wants to get back into the mix, it'll have to do it sooner rather than later, starting with this afternoon's matchup against Georgia (12-8, 5-4 SEC) in Athens. The Bulldogs have split their last four games with two wins and two losses. The two wins, both at home, came against Arkansas (76-73 in OT) and South Carolina (69-56 on Tuesday night). The two losses were both road games against LSU and Baylor.
Last season, Auburn and Georgia split the series, with the Tigers winning at Athens (69-68) and the Bulldogs winning at Auburn Arena (64-61). This Georgia team is certainly beatable, but like last season, Auburn will need a clutch performance from behind the arc (and a more consistent one, at that) to challenge the Bulldogs in their home arena.
Unfortunately, Auburn has not been able to put all of the pieces together offensively to find a winning formula for scoring points. Tuesday night, for example, saw on-fire Bryce Brown hit six three pointers—the most since his game against Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic over the holidays. The rest of the team only made four three pointers—that's four, total.
As they say, something's gotta give.
The Bulldogs are led by junior guard J.J. Frazier (16.4 points, 4.8 rebounds per game), sophomore forward Yante Maten (15.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG), and senior guard Kenny Gaines (13.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG). Last year, Gaines put up 18 points in the home loss to Auburn, and in the last four games, he's scored in double digits. Frazier has scored 20 or higher in three of the last four games.
It seems like it's the same story every week, but such is the nature of SEC basketball in 2016 that keeps Auburn in the mix. A win this afternoon on the road will get the Tigers back on track, but a fifth consecutive loss will add to the frustration that has built up in recent conference play. Let's hope Bruce Pearl can get Kareem Canty, Tyler Harris, and the rest of the Tigers inspired the way he did against Kentucky weeks ago.
War Damn Eagle.
How to Watch:
Auburn vs. Georgia
When: 4:30 PM CT
Watch: SEC Network
Listen: Auburn IMG Network
Radio Affiliates: 100.5 FM (Birmingham), 94.3 FM (Auburn), 1230 AM (Huntsville), 106.5 FM (Mobile), 92.3 FM (Montgomery)