Date: Friday March 15th
Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
Location: Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, Tennessee
Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network
Auburn won their first SEC Tournament game since 2015 beating Missouri yesterday afternoon 81-71. The 5th seeded Tigers got 17 2nd half points from Bryce and a double-double from Horace Spencer (11 points and 10 rebounds) to lead Auburn into Quarterfinal Friday.
I’ll start today’s preview with this clip postgame after yesterday’s win...
You fired up yet for Bruce Pearl vs. Frank Martin??
Bruce is right about one thing though, that Frank Martin has owned him, especially away from Auburn Arena.
We owe South Carolina a little payback.
Back on January 22nd, Auburn dealt with a ridiculous amount of foul trouble in Columbia, South Carolina and yet had a chance to tie or win the game late. The end of the game left certain people (me) up in arms about the way the game was officiated but nevertheless, like I end up telling myself, don’t leave a game in the hands of officials. So that being said, I’m glad we get another crack at these guys. I don’t think Bruce has forgotten the way that game was officiated either and that will certain be a challenge leading into today’s matchup.
Before we talk South Carolina: here’s a reminder of what else is taking place in the SEC today.
Noon - #8 Florida vs. #1 LSU
A Florida win will solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament field. With all the distractions around LSU, we’ll see how they come out and will the Gators build off of yesterday’s performance?
6PM - #10 Alabama vs. #2 Kentucky
Alabama overcame a 14 point halftime deficit to knock off Ole Miss last night. I have a feeling their going to be either the Last Team In or the First Team Out so a good showing for them tonight would help their cause. The Cats are fighting for a #1 Seed.
8:30PM - #6 Mississippi State vs. #3 Tennessee
I have a feeling Tennessee’s quite antsy to return to the court after the game in Auburn last Saturday. The Vols will have to slow down Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters who had an easy time against Texas A&M last night.
Get to Know (Re) Know South Carolina...
Today is the last time that Auburn will ever have to face Chris Silva (#30). The senior forward was a monster on January 22nd when the Tigers came to the Palmetto State as he went off for 32 points and 14 rebounds in the South Carolina win. He was 11-12 from the field and 10-11 from the free throw line. It’s not rocket science, Auburn has to do a better job on him today. Horace Spencer and Anfernee McLemore can’t get into foul trouble like they did in the first matchup. Silva averaged 23 points and 13.5 rebounds in 2 games last week and for the season, Silva is averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. If Auburn can get him into foul trouble, that would be a huge boost. In games where Silva has been in foul trouble, his production is obviously down and the results that not been good for the Gamecocks. He played only 15 minutes 2 weeks ago and fouled out against Missouri and the team lost that game by 15 points.
One thing to monitor as this game approaches is the health of freshmen guard A.J. Lawson (#00). Lawson hurt his ankle against Alabama 2 1⁄2 weeks ago and missed the last 3 games of the year. According to Frank Martin, he practiced fully yesterday and they expect him to play, probably off the bench. That’s big for South Carolina as he’s come along this year nicely for them and sits 2nd on the team at 13.9 points a game. Lawson dealt with foul trouble in the first matchup, scoring just 7 points but as I said, he was playing really well before he got hurt.
SEC 6th Man of the Year Hassani Gravett (#2) is another player to watch out for. He’s 3rd on the team averaging 11.6 points a game. In place of Lawson, expect Gravett to start for the Gamecocks as he has in the last few games. He’s averaging 41.3% on 3-pointers and had 13 points and 6 assists in the first game.
One of South Carolina’s other freshmen players, has stepped up for the Gamecocks, particularly in the last 3 games. Keyshawn Bryant (#24) scored 15, 15, and 14 in the team’s last 3 games and overall, he’s averaging 9.1 points a game this year.
Other guys to watch: senior guard (#4) Tre Campbell, averaging 7 a game and don’t forget about 6’11” junior forward Maik Kotsar (#21) averaging 6.8 points a game, who scored 9 against Auburn.
What to Look for from Auburn...
The bottom line is this: Jared Harper has to play better. When Auburn needed him yesterday, he a big 3-pointer in the corner and knocked a pair of free throws to ice the game but it’s rare for Auburn to win a game in which Harper scores just 5 points. This is a game where I think Jared has to assert his will early, make a couple of shots and look to be more of a scorer.
Can Horace Spencer put together another performance like he did yesterday? When Chuma went out with 2 fouls, Bruce Pearl needed somebody to step up. Insert: Horace Spencer. The senior had 11 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 steals and with the Tigers facing Chris Silva who destroyed us in the regular season, fouling both Spencer and McLemore out early, we’re going to need more discipline on the defensive side of the ball not picking up ticky-tack fouls.
Danjel Purifoy had his season high minutes and gave Auburn some great minutes off the bench.
My favorite segment from today’s game. Danjel Purifoy was big for Auburn today. Here he comes up with 2 offensive rebounds and the 3rd times the charm as Bryce hits an open 3. pic.twitter.com/8gh6KYdRIK— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) March 14, 2019
Auburn has the depth advantage but South Carolina is the fresher team as this will be their first time on the court in this tournament. The Tigers got their feet wet so they should be more comfortable shooting in Bridgestone Arena having a game under their belt. How Auburn fares against Silva will go a long way in deciding who wins this game. I think it’s going to be quite a battle and the stronger team will survive. My gut says that Auburn is going to get a big game from Harper, as well as Chuma Okeke and Auburn will scrap and claw their way to Saturday.
Auburn 77 South Carolina 71