AUBURN, Ala. — The positives and negatives from Auburn’s loss at Kentucky last Saturday haven’t slipped Bruce Pearl’s mind. Though his team fought furiously, in the end the Tigers made too many mistakes.
Yet, the feeling that permeated the halftime locker room in Lexington — of being able to compete with anyone in the SEC — lingers as Auburn prepares for back-to-back games on the Plains.
Auburn will try to improve its conference record (1-4) Wednesday night against LSU (7:30 CT, SEC Network) before battling in-state nemesis Alabama on Saturday.
“We’ve just got to take it one at a time,” Pearl said. “These are just really crucial wins, really crucial opportunities for us.”
Earning wins against these SEC foes could only help the Tigers chances at postseason play. It’s a fact Pearl discusses openly with his team. The focus, however, isn’t what could happen in March but remains what needs to be done during the team’s next game.
LSU, one of a handful of teams predicted to finish near the bottom of the SEC, has struggled as of late. Coach Johnny Jones dismissed the team’s starting forward, Craig Victor, at the end of December and the opposing Tigers have since lost five of their last six games.
Still, LSU’s sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney has posted impressive stat lines (17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds per game) and has assistance from 6-foot-1o forwards Duop Reath and Aaron Epps.
“They’ve got some really good wins; they’ve got some really close losses,” Pearl said. “They can score. A lot of offensive weapons. They’ve got really good length defensively and some rim protectors. They’ve had some personal changes, kind of like us where they’ve had to evolve a little bit. … We’ve got to know their personnel really well and we’ve got to continue to grow with our own offense, valuing possessions.”
Auburn will likely also have to deal with absence of freshman forward Danjel Purifoy, who Pearl said would be “doubtful” ahead of Wednesday’s game. Beating LSU would be a step in the right direction for the 2016-17 team.
“We have an opportunity to get back into the race. We have an opportunity to get further out of the race,” Pearl said. “These are crucial games for us at home against LSU and Alabama.”
Auburn basketball Wednesday night
Projected starting 5
* Blocks per game
Auburn vs. LSU game details, time, TV channel
LSU (9-7, 1-4 SEC) vs. Auburn (11-6, 1-4 SEC)
Game time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
TV: SEC Network
How to watch online: SECNetwork.com
Follow live stats: GameTracker