There’s an old saying that the first impression you make to someone is the most important impression you can make. For Auburn Basketball Friday night, the first impression was a mixed bag of sorts.
Bruce Pearl was disappointed in his team after a 76-62 win tonight over Lincoln Memorial. Yes, there were some good things that happened tonight, but there was also some things that need to be worked on as the season starts in just 3 days. The team started off really sloppy with some really bad shots and poor defense. The Tigers were just 6-26 from 3-point range. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown both dealt with cramps for most of the second half. It was only around the 5 minute mark of the first half when the team began to settle down and starting playing better on both sides of the ball.
Keep in mind that Auburn was missing both Austin Wiley and Samir Doughty due to injuries so the team is far from being healthy at this time. It’s also worth noting that Coach Pearl was definitely experimenting with some things to use as we enter this season. A lot of the offense ran Friday night will make more sense once Wiley returns to the lineup. Having a guy like Wiley will allow Auburn to make a concerted effort on getting the ball into the paint more frequently this year. The Tigers scored 38 of their 76 points inside the paint and they will have to rely more on that game on nights when the 3-pointer isn’t falling. All of that said, let’s take a look at what I saw in tonight’s game.
Jared Harper led the Tigers with 22 points and to be quite honest, it was a pretty quiet 22 points for Harper. Harper led the team in shots with 14 but only 5 of those were 3-pointers. He made 2 of them, both in the closing minutes, to help put the game away.
Horace Spencer had a great game. The senior scored 14 points and had 8 rebounds while being Bruce Pearl’s first option off the bench. Horace was aggressive, frequently calling for the ball in the paint and posting up defenders. He also continued to play great defense as he has throughout his career. If Auburn can get a little more offense from Spencer, he could be an incredible asset for Auburn off the bench this year.
Anfernee McLemore looked great in his return to the court. He scored 13 points and 6 rebounds and for the most part, he looked good on both sides of the ball. He shoots the 3 ball so effortlessly and was 1-2 from that range. McLemore did have a scare in the second half after someone stepped on his previous injured ankle. Fortunately, he returned to the game shortly after the incident.
Chuma Okeke is going to be a star on this year’s team. The sophomore started at the 4 and had 11 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. He led the team in minutes with 31 and has the ability to take over the game when necessary. If Chuma plays up to his potential this year, he will likely be a 1st Round Pick in the NBA Draft next year.
Danjel Purifoy made his return to the court for the first time since the end of the 2016-2017 season and he was understandably rusty. He scored 5 points on 1-7 shooting in 18 minutes of action. He was 0-5 from 3 and 3-6 from the free throw line. But still, it was good for Purifoy to get some game action and we will see him next December 15th against UAB.
Bryce Brown struggled tonight with what looked to be cramps and had only 6 points and 5 rebounds. Hopefully he will be able to bounce back and have a big game on Tuesday night.
Malik Dunbar started at the 3 spot, and scored 4 points in 23 minutes of action. J’Von McCormick was scoreless, but had 3 rebounds and 2 assists in his Auburn debut.
One lineup that I saw tonight that caught my eye was the frequent use of both point guards, Harper and McCormick, on the floor at the same time. Harper played off the ball while McCormick played the point. That was one of Auburn’s smaller lineups tonight that featured Malik Dunbar playing the 3, Purifoy at the 4 and either Spencer or McLemore at the 5. These are lineups that Bruce Pearl will have to use while Doughty and Wiley recover from their injuries.
Overall, this game went about how I expected it to. I figured the score would be close for a lot longer than most fans probably would have expected and Auburn would win by about 15 points. Hey, at least Auburn didn’t repeat last year’s exhibition performance and lose to a Division 2 school. But most importantly, Auburn Basketball is back!
Auburn begins their 2018-2019 season Tuesday night at 8PM against South Alabama. Hopefully, the Tigers will play better then they did tonight. War Eagle!