Date: Friday, December 22
Opponent: Murray State Racers
Location: Auburn Arena - Auburn, AL
Time: 3:30 PM CST
Watch and Listen: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network
Get to Know Murray State...
The Racers are 8-1 and led by head coach Matt McMahon, but they flat out haven’t played anyone, and the lone loss on their slate came in Tuscaloosa in a wild finish as they almost clipped Alabama down the stretch. In the end, there’s pretty much one thing that you need to know about Murray State, and that’s the fact that they’ve got Ja Morant leading the way and running the show.
Morant’s one of the best guards in the country, and the 6’3 170-pound sophomore from South Carolina leads the nation in assists per game with 9.6 dimes every time out. He also adds more than 22 points per game from a straight-up scoring perspective, and he can rebound a little too. He pulls down 7 boards a game as well, so he’s a true triple threat on the court. However, Murray doesn’t really have much else.
Aside from Morant, Leroy Buchanan and Tevin Brown (a Fairhope native) each hit double figures on average, but as a whole, the Racers don’t have a lot of size. Without a true center, they’ll have some trouble matching up with the height that Auburn can boast in a bevy of different lineups. Their biggest player — 6’9 forward K.J. Williams — adds less than 6 points per game and just 2 rebounds.
Murray State shoots pretty well (almost 48%), but they don’t shoot threes well (bottom half of the country), and they don’t rebound well either (bottom 10% in the country). They are careful with the ball, ranking 30th in the land in turnovers, and so if they couple that care with good shot selection, then Auburn may not be able to get out and run as much as they’d like to do.
What to Look for from Auburn...
We need to get the shooting back in a hurry. Yes, being at home will help, but with a lighter crowd expected, the Tigers may have to manufacture some emotion with a hot start. The last time Auburn was at home, they got 54 combined points from Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Since then, Brown has been ice cold, and he needs a game inside Auburn Arena more than anyone.
As a whole, the team also needs to figure out who it is. There seems to be a problem with too much talent at the moment, which has resulted in a ton of different combinations on the floor, and a lack of cohesion. Bruce Pearl says that it’s a good problem to have, and I agree, but Auburn can’t take losses while trying to figure out the best combination.
This is the last test of the non-conference portion, and may actually be the toughest game that Auburn will have until Kentucky in mid-January. They need to get into a rhythm now before SEC play starts.
Being at home is going to help. This is a game where we need Bryce Brown to hit an early three, Auburn to dominate on the glass, and for the defense to prevent anyone not named Ja Morant from having a big night. The Tigers can win comfortably if he gets 25 points. It’ll be a dogfight if he and another guy combine for 45 points. Neutralize everyone else, and Auburn will be fine. The Tigers have much better depth, and much more muscle, which means they’ll pull away in the end despite some fantastic plays from Morant for the Racers.
Auburn 78, Murray State 62