Well, we could’ve won the SEC anytime over the past couple of weeks — with a win here or there, or a Tennessee loss in the same span. Now, we’ve got to do it with a win at home to guarantee a conference championship and the 1-seed at next week’s SEC Tournament in St. Louis.
The task is simple, and the biggest hurdle will probably come from within for the Auburn Tigers.
South Carolina comes to Auburn Arena this afternoon, having already beaten the Tigers in Columbia two weeks ago, and prolonging the championship race. The Gamecocks, quite frankly, dominated the contest, leading by as much as 26 points in the first half. Auburn pulled back within just a few, but couldn’t keep it up and lost 84-75. In that game, the Tigers couldn’t muster any success from downtown, going just 5-27 on the day.
Additionally, that was when our season truly took a turn for the worse with the loss of Anfernee McLemore. The SEC’s best shot-blocker went down with a violent ankle injury that would put him out for the rest of the year. Auburn rebounded though, and blew out Alabama in the next game at home.
We need more of that. Since the win over Alabama, Auburn’s had two chances to win the SEC, but fell in two straight road games at Florida and at Arkansas. Now, it’s a return home to play the Gamecocks with everything on the line. We’ve seen the difference in play when the Tigers play at home with the Jungle behind them.
We’ve seen the emotional pull they get from the fans and a rocking arena, and we’ve seen them pull off magnificent spurts to run away from the opposition. It’s no secret that they’re better in Auburn, and they feed off the home court advantage.
We need that in a big way today. Bryce Brown and Jared Harper have been struggling from the floor, and the defense has taken a step back with the hole created by McLemore’s absence on the interior. Mustapha Heron has angrily picked up the slack at times, but the void to fill is bigger than the excellent contributions we’ve gotten from him.
I know South Carolina shot the lights out two weeks ago, but this game is all about us. It’s all about Auburn winning the SEC Championship in front of the home fans. It’s all about a long-awaited title on the Plains, and it’s all about the Auburn Family after everything we’ve had to endure this year.
On to vict’ry, strike up the band. Give ‘em hell. War Eagle. Let’s play for a championship.