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#18 LSU at #11 Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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What’s At Stake: FIRST Place in the SEC

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday February 8th

Opponent: LSU Tigers

Location: Auburn Arena

Time: 11AM

Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network

It’s a big morning inside Auburn Arena as the Tigers prepared to host their 2nd straight Top 20 opponent as the Bayou Bengals make their way to Auburn today. LSU is 17-5 on the year and began the SEC with an 8-0 record before a very surprising loss Wednesday night in Nashville to the Vanderbilt Commodores, previous losers of 26 straight SEC conference games. With Auburn’s win over Arkansas and LSU’s loss, Auburn moved within a game of LSU for 1st in the league. IF Auburn wins today (and Kentucky beats Tennessee) there will be a 3-way tie at 8-2 in the league with Auburn holding wins over both LSU and Kentucky.

Get to Know LSU

For an LSU perspective of today’s game, read this Q&A we conducted with And The Valley Shook.

LSU has been really good in close games this season. In January, the Bayou Bengals won 6 straight games, all by 4 points or less. But looking at who they have played in the league this year, the back half of the SEC Schedule is much tougher for them. They play in Auburn today, go to Tuscaloosa next weekend, host Kentucky and still have trips to Florida and Arkansas on the horizon. Auburn fans know firsthand how tough those trips are.

I’m really interested to see how LSU responds after a shocking loss to Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. What was almost as shocking was giving up 99 points to the Commodores, a team who had not scored over 64 points in a game since playing in the SEC Opener back on January 8th.

As a team, LSU averages 80.2 PPG while giving up 71 PPG. LSU has 5 guys averaging double-figures on the season and has incredibly efficient from 2-point range, in addition to being strong on the offensive glass. Auburn has had a big advantage in games lately on the glass but this game will be a huge test in the rebounding department. I think the team that rebounds the best is the team who will win this game. They also get to the free throw line about 21.5 times a game, which I thought was a lot until I saw Auburn has gotten to the line around 27 times a game this year. Despite being on the road Wednesday, they didn’t lack for free throw attempts as they got to the line 36 times at Vandy.

Senior Guard Skylar Mays (#4) - 15.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG

Mays has had a great 4 years in Baton Rouge as his numbers have been on the rise each year he’s been with the Tigers. This year, he’s LSU’s leading scorer and taken on a bigger role with guys like Tremont Waters playing with Bryce Brown in the G-League these days. Mays also has the flair for the dramatics as does LSU so far in SEC play.

Sophomore Forward Emmitt Williams (#5) - 14.2 PPG, 7 RPG

Williams played behind Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams last season but has become LSU’s go-to guy in the paint this season. He had an excellent game in Nashville Wednesday night scoring 24 points while also having 11 rebounds. That was Williams 6th double-double and I’m looking forward to the matchup with Williams going up against Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore in the paint.

Freshmen Forward Trendon Watford (#2) - 14 PPG, 7.4 RPG

Speaking of guys that made a lasting impression when I saw LSU live on Wednesday, Trendon Watford was sensational for LSU. He had a season/career high 26 points as well as 9 rebounds. Watford, is a Birmingham native, who spurned Alabama to leave home and play in Baton Rouge. This will be his first game back in his home state as a collegiate player. Watford is proving why he was so heavily recruited though and in his last 4 games, he is averaging 19.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG. He and Williams have formed a dynamic duo in the paint for LSU this season.

Sophomore Guard Javonte Smart (#1) - 12.3 PPG, 4.4 APG

Smart and Mays are tied with the most 3-pointers made this season with 28 but what’s interesting about Smart’s statistics is he shoots the 3 much better on the road than he does at home. Overall, he’s a 28.3% 3-point shooter. Looking at his 9 SEC games, Smart is shooting 15-31 (48.4%) from 3 in 4 road games while shooting 0-14 from 3 in 5 home games.

Sophomore Forward Darius Days (#0) - 11.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG

Days seems to be the LSU Tiger that flies under the radar but he’s tied with Watford as the leading rebounder and is another forward to have to deal with in the paint. Days scoring is down in recent weeks but I wouldn’t be surprised if this the guy that has a big game in Auburn today.

Keys for Auburn

Physicality on the glass, and who gets to the free throw line more will be 2 major factors in this game. While Auburn has won many games this year being the better rebounding team, LSU is one of the country’s best offensive rebounding teams as they average 12.4 offensive rebounds a game. Austin Wiley was held scoreless in Fayetteville but had a great game against Kentucky last Saturday. Will Wiley be able to hold his own in the paint against Williams and Watford and have a bounce back game?

Sadly, J’Von McCormick will not be donning the #55 jersey again today but that jersey seemed to spark him and the team late on Tuesday against Arkansas. J’Von scored 12 of his 16 points in the last 6 minutes of regulation and Overtime after having his jersey ripped by an Arkansas player, forcing him to change jerseys. Let’s see if we’ll see more #VintageJVon in today’s game.

Samir Doughty has put together back-to-back 23 point games and has kept Auburn’s offense afloat early in games against Kentucky and Arkansas while others have struggled to score around him. Samir is averaging 20.3 PPG in his last 4 games.

Prediction

As I said in the beginning, this is a huge game for both teams. LSU has had several close calls in league play and perhaps the loss to Vanderbilt was what they needed to get going again. For Auburn, get the ball in the paint, and get to the free throw line as they have over the last few weeks and you have to like Auburn’s chances at home. I’m sure those who played in last year’s edition of Auburn-LSU in Baton Rouge with a couple of no calls on 3-point attempts by Auburn late. I think Auburn gets the job done and moves to the top of the leaderboard in the SEC.

Auburn 81 LSU 75