GAME 11: Sunday, December 18th, 2022
#19 Auburn Tigers @ USC Trojans
Galen Center - Los Angeles, CA
Time: 4:30 pm CST/5:30 pm EST
Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network
Betting Odds: Auburn -1.5, Over/Under 140.5 via Draft Kings Sportsbook
(Odds/lines subject to change. Visit DraftKings for more information.)
We’re in a position where we hope the salty west coast air provides a little introspection and refreshment for this team.
Through ten games, Auburn is 9-1, but it doesn’t feel great. We’ve looked really off-kilter over the past couple of games, and that includes our only loss on the season to Memphis. The win over Georgia State was much closer than expected, and we’re just not syncing like we should. The upperclassmen haven’t quite taken the leap we need, and the newcomers are having trouble, whether it’s with recovery from surgery/injuries (Westry/Broome), or trouble figuring out the scheme (Traore), we’re just not getting the production necessary with the guys we have on the team.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re ultra-talented, but it’s just not clicking. Maybe Bruce needs to shrink the lineup down to find the best 8-9 instead of playing with 11-12. We’ll probably see what happens over this road trip against two PAC-12 teams to give us an idea of what we can expect over the first few dates of the conference season.
Auburn almost played USC last season in the NCAA Tournament, and it might have gone better for us than playing the super-small and super-quick Miami team that frustrated us and bounced us from the Dance. Playing USC may have resulted in a lengthier run in the postseason, but we’ll never know. We’ll get to see the Trojans today, and in their gym, not at a neutral site somewhere.
USC is led by Andy Enfield, still there after he made the leap from Florida Gulf Coast and Dunk City years ago. Ironically, the Trojans lost to FGCU to open the year, and it wasn’t particularly close. The started 5-1 before falling to Tennessee and Wisconsin in consecutive games over Thanksgiving, and then PAC-12 play began after the holiday. Two wins over Cal and Oregon State have them 2-0 in league play, and they’ve had a pair of easy wins since then over Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
We’re going to have to deal with a guy named Boogie, who’s the Trojans’ leading scorer. Boogie Ellis averages 14.1 ppg on the year, but it’s 6’9 forward Drew Peterson who’ll be the toughest to handle. He does everything for the Trojans — scoring (13.9 ppg), rebounding (7.9 rpg), and dishing (6.1 apg) — and he’s going to be a problem assignment for whoever draws him. Enfield has shrunk his main lineup, and he’s got six primary guys that average over 20 minutes per game, and then only a couple of others who’ll get time on the floor. Peterson, as mentioned above, plays 36.0 minutes per game, so he’ll be on the floor quite a bit.
The one thing that USC does particularly well, just like Auburn, is block shots. There are only two schools ahead of the Trojans in blocked shots per game, and Auburn is one of them. They’re right in the middle of basically every other metric you can find. They don’t score a ton (71 ppg/196th nationally), they don’t shoot super well (45.7%/134th nationally), and they don’t rebound like crazy (36.5 rpg/147th nationally). That comes against a schedule that’s been pretty easy thus far as well.
However, this will be Auburn’s first true road test, playing in an opponent’s actual gym, and we’ll see how the Tigers fare without the Jungle behind them. Thankfully, there shouldn’t be many students in town for USC, and I can’t imagine we’re going to see a wild atmosphere in LA.
I have to think that Bruce peeled the paint both after the GSU game and in practice over the past couple of days. What we saw on the floor against Memphis and GSU clearly wasn’t working well, so I think we’ll see some changes. Unfortunately, Wendell Green is apparently a gametime decision, so this may be the Tre Donaldson show today. Assuming Wendell plays and isn’t 100%, this is every bit as close as the line suggests.
Auburn 69, USC 67