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Auburn at Texas A&M Game Preview, Q&A, and Open Thread

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Tigers head to Texas to start 2021 and get an Aggies perspective heading into this afternoon’s matchup!

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday January 2, 2021

Auburn Tigers at Texas A&M Aggies

Reed Arena: College Station, Texas

Time: 2:30PM

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

After a disappointing loss to Arkansas in the SEC opener, Auburn (6-3, 0-1) hopes to turn the page as they head to the Lone Star State to take on Texas A&M (5-2, 0-1). The Tigers fell 97-85 to Arkansas on Wednesday while the Aggies suffered a 77-54 setback on Tuesday against LSU in Baton Rouge.

Throughout this preview, you will see a Texas A&M presence in it as GigThem08, the Basketball writer from the Texas A&M SB Nation site Good Bull Hunting, was kind enough to answer some questions for us leading into today’s game.

Get to Know Texas A&M

The coaching matchup gives us two of the sweatiest coaches in America as Bruce Pearl takes on Buzz Williams. A lot is made of how much Coach Pearl sweats on the sidelines but I think Buzz might have Bruce beat in this department. He was also, at least of games I’ve watched this year, only the second coach to wear a shirt and tie on the sidelines this year (and actually changed shirts at halftime Tuesday). When I asked who he thought sweated more on the sidelines: Bruce or Buzz?

GBH: “Bring a bucket, and bring a mop. There are no winners in this contest.”

One of the odd things about these two programs is their success against each other, while playing on the road. This goes for both football and basketball. As for hoops, the road team has won the last 3 times in this series. Texas A&M was the only visiting team to win inside Auburn Arena during both the 2017-2018 season and last season as well. When I asked about what his thoughts on the oddity of this series...

GBH: “The relative success each school continues to have away from home is truly bizarre. I don’t know what to make of it, to be honest, other than to suggest that we tend to do well in hostile environments. That’s yet another thing 2020 will adjust about this year, and it will be fascinating to see how teams respond without the same passion in the stands.

Hopefully for Auburn, the trend continues today.

The Aggies are 5-0 in Reed Arena this season with a win over Wofford accounting for their best win of the season. They also have an 18 point loss against TCU and the loss to LSU Tuesday accounting for their setbacks this season.

Sophomore forward Emanuel Miller (#5) is the star on this Aggies roster this season as he’s taking a huge leap forward in Year 2, averaging close to a double-double this season. Miller is averaging 17.3 PPG along with 9.2 RPG. That’s nearly an 11 PPG increase from last year when he averaged just 6.4 PPG. Miller is 4th in the SEC in scoring, leads the league in FG% (64.6%) and his 9.2 RPG tops the conference as well. As for his thoughts on Miller...

GBH: “Miller’s leap forward has been the biggest development in a season that hasn’t had many. He’s an old school big who prides himself in getting to the bucket, and its not uncommon to see over half of his points come from free throws. He’s a virtual lock to lead the team in rebounds, and his presence moves (Savion) Flagg to the 3, his natural position.”

It will be a huge test for Jaylin Williams, JT Thor and the other Auburn bigs going up against Miller today.

Texas A&M’s 2nd leading scorer is senior guard Quenton Jackson (#3), who went to the same Junior College as Malik Dunbar, before making his way to College Station. Jackson also has some #ClassicMalik qualities about him as well.

Jackson has been in and out of the starting lineup this year and is 8-19 from 3 this year (42.1%). As for GBH’s thoughts on Jackson:

GBH: “Jackson is a bit of an enigma. He’s the best dunker in the SEC in my opinion, but we were looking for him to carry forward his consistency from the end of last season, and that hasn’t fully materialized. The best version of this team exists when Jackson is engaged on both ends of the floor.”

Sophomore guard Andre Gordon (#20) comes in 3rd in scoring for the Aggies at 9.6 PPG. Gordon comes in at 38.9% shooting from distance.

Senior guard Savion Flagg (#1), who I feel like has been at A&M forever, comes in at 9 PPG and leads the team with 3.7 assists per game and second on the team averaging 5.8 RPG.

Freshman Hassan Diarra (#11), averaging 8.1 PPG, and senior guard Jay Jay Chandler (#0), averaging 7.2 PPG are also key parts to the Aggies rotation.

As for an under the radar player Auburn fans should keep an eye on:

GBH: “I’d keep an eye on Kevin Marfo (#45). The grad transfer led the nation in rebounding last year, and he’s slowly finding his footing this season. We still haven’t fully landed on a rotation that harmoniously includes he and Aku, but I feel like we’re a game or two away from finding our answer at the 5.”

Marfo, the transfer from Quinnipiac, averaged 13.3 RPG, last season for the Bobcats which led the country. This year, he’s averaging 4.5 RPG while adding 3.9 PPG and has started 4 of the last 5 games as Buzz Williams looks to settle on a rotation this season.

Keys for Auburn

It’s very rare for Auburn to make 15 3s in a game, and lose...

Since the start of the 2015-2016 season, the Tigers are 14-2 in games where they make 15+ 3s in a game. Other than Wednesday night, the other loss came against LSU in the 2018-2019 season in Baton Rouge.

Wednesday night was a learning experience against an older and more experienced team. Auburn was that way the last 3 seasons and now they are on the opposite end of that spectrum with the youth on this year’s Auburn squad. The game was tied at 74 with just under 8 minutes to go but Auburn went cold and had multiple turnovers as well as a 10-0 run from the Razorbacks was the difference coming down the stretch.

Jamal Johnson had a career high 21 points to lead Auburn the other night and while most of the attention has gone to Allen Flanigan for his improvement this season, Johnson deserves some praise as well. Last year, Johnson was a liability on the defensive side and his value wasn’t great other than being a 3-point shooter. This season, Johnson has drastically improved on defense and is already 23 of the way to his total made 3s from last season (which was 27). He’s 8-13 from 3 in his last 2 games for Auburn as one of the primary guys coming in off the bench.

Devan Cambridge, who came into the Arkansas game at 22.2% from 3 on the season, knocked down 5 3-pointers against the Razorbacks as well. Can Devan build off of that and make some outside Auburn Arena?

Justin Powell is averaging just over 5 PPG in his last 3 games and only averaging just 5.7 shots per game. Powell needs to shoot the ball more for the Tigers to be successful but he has continued to rebound and dish out assists. He did have 7 turnovers last time out so that’s another thing that needs to be improved.

Two things Auburn has to do better: Limit Turnovers, they had 19 Wednesday night and more consistency from the charity stripe. Auburn was 14-24 on Wednesday night, and just 2-9 in the first half. They were much better in the 2nd half (12-15) but that’s going to cost this team a few more games this year if it doesn’t improve.

Predictions

First up from Good Bull Hunting

GBH: “I like our chances to respond well after the debacle against LSU. Starting with last year’s SEC slate, we have rarely submitted two duds in a row, and I’m betting on a good response and a 1-1 record in conference.”

Texas A&M 71 Auburn 59

As for me, I’m thinking the weirdness that we talked about the top about the road team winning in this series continues today.

Auburn 74 Texas A&M 68

One of us will be right. Thanks again to GigEm08 for joining us today!