Date: Wednesday February 20th
Opponent: Arkansas Razorbacks - 14-11 (5-7)
Location: Auburn Arena
Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network
Get to Know Arkansas...
With the exception of Daniel Gafford, this is a much different looking Arkansas team then the one we saw last year. The Hogs have had growing pains this year breaking in a new guys this year. They were a bit of a surprise for their non-conference performance but they’ve struggled at times in the SEC. They come into tonight’s matchup on a 3-game losing streak.
The Arkansas tempo is much quicker than what we’ve seen recently against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt so hopefully that plays more into the style of play Auburn would like to play. One thing that Auburn has struggled with is playing teams that slow the game down like Ole Miss did so well in the game here last Wednesday.
I mentioned Gafford (#13) before and he’s the straw that stirs the drink for Arkansas. The 6’11” sophomore is averaging 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds a game this season and is the clear leader on this team. He tied his season low of 8 points in their last game against Mississippi State but has 7 double-doubles this season. In last season’s meeting in Fayetteville, Gafford had 7 blocks to go along with 21 points and 10 rebounds in their win over Auburn in late February. Look for Gafford to be the focal point of the Arkansas offense this evening.
Next for Arkansas is sophomore guard (#10) Mason Jones who is 2nd on the team averaging 14.4 points a game. He tied his career high with 30 points against the Bulldogs on Saturday. Jones made 5 3s on 11 attempts Saturday so Jones is one of Arkansas prominent 3-point shooters, averaging 35.2% on the season from that range.
While Jones is one to watch from 3, Isaiah Joe (#1) is the Hogs best 3-point shooter at 43.3%. The freshmen guard averages 13.8 points a game this year and has scored in double figures in all but 5 games this season. He made 10 3-pointers in a game earlier this season but is coming off a 5 point performance against Mississippi State.
Finally, I want to mention junior (#5) Jalen Harris. The New Mexico transfer, averages 8.8 points and 5.6 assists a game this year for Arkansas.
What to Look for from Auburn...
After giving up a season high 92 points against Mississippi State on January 26th, the Tigers have held have held 5 of their last 6 opponents under 64 points. The defense has certainly been better lately and with the exception of the defense at the end of shot clocks when opponents put up desperation 3-pointers (looking directly at that Ole Miss game), the defense has been exceptional.
Offensively, it’s been a bit of a struggle for Auburn lately. Can Auburn get some production from the center spot? It’s been quite a struggle at that spot for Auburn, especially here recently. Austin Wiley has scored 1 point over his last 3 games and Auburn needs to get him going coming down the stretch in order to sustain any run come March. Auburn is going to need more than just Jared Harper, Bryce Brown and Chuma Okeke coming down the stretch as well. They got a great game from Malik Dunbar, who played a season high 30 minutes Saturday at Vandy and hit a 3-pointer with 2 minutes left that was the dagger in the Dores hearts. Who steps up tonight? Perhaps Wiley starts putting it together. Maybe Anfernee McLemore has a good showing. Who knows, but Auburn needs that fourth guy scoring for them in order to win.
We learned after Saturday’s game that Samir Doughty was a bit banged up and didn’t practice Friday. We’ll see how much he’s able to go but many have wondered whether or not Malik Dunbar should start at the 3 going forward, especially after Saturday. Personally, I think he’s a great guy to have bringing energy off the bench but we’ll see what Bruce does in the event Doughty isn’t able to go or give extended minutes.
This is a huge game for Auburn with Kentucky looming on Saturday. That will be a daunting task in itself but the focus needs to be squarely on Arkansas. Auburn needs to redeem themselves after a dreadful performance at home last Wednesday night and I think they'll do that tonight.
Auburn 77 Arkansas 63