AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn still is seeking an SEC win, and Columbia, Mo., could be the place to get one.
The Tigers take on Missouri after three consecutive losses to start conference play. Yet despite letting two leads slip away (one against Georgia, another against Ole Miss) and suffering a tough defeat at Vanderbilt, coach Bruce Pearl isn’t panicking.
“We’re good enough to beat anybody at home that is on our schedule, and we’re good enough to beat anybody on the road,” Pearl said. “We have to play well.”
Making fewer mistakes defensively and taking better shots will help.
Perhaps most important, Auburn will have to adjust to playing without redshirt-freshman forward Danjel Purifoy for the first time this season. Purifoy suffered a left ankle injury in the loss to Ole Miss on Saturday and didn’t make the trip to Columbia.
Pearl believes a more balanced offense can lead to success. To this point in the season, Auburn’s freshman trio — Purifoy, Jared Harper, Mustapha Heron — has poured in most of the points.
“We need T.J. Dunans creating. We need Bryce (Brown) and (TJ) Lang taking shots. We need to get Austin (Wiley) and Horace (Spencer) more touches. Those are all things that we need to get done offensively,” Pearl said. “Mustapha is doing a lot of really good things offensively. If we could improve his passing when he first catches it … when he first catches it, there are some things there that we would like him to see prior to him creating. He’s been very productive offensively, but that’s one thing that might help those guys get some looks.”
Of course, offense is only half of it. Auburn will have to have smoother, accurate rotations on defense and turn up the intensity on its press (when the opportunity is there).
“We have pressure in our package,” Pearl said. “And against teams I think pressure can be effective (against), we’ll press.”
There’s more, though. A positive mindset is needed to keep the locker room together, as is mindfulness of the improving state of a conference known for its football talent. Missouri presents greater challenges than are apparent on a scouting report.
Auburn could have just as easily let a few additional wins escape, Pearl said.
“We had a couple of wins against Upstate and Mercer. If those games don’t go our way, it’s sort of the same thing as them losing to Eastern Illinois and Lipscomb. But we hit a buzzer shot against Mercer, and we managed to beat Upstate,” Pearl said. “You look at the teams they’ve (Missouri) lost to. They’ve lost to really good teams. They played a very, very tough schedule. That’s the challenge. We have to play better than just good to go there and win. We have to play very well to beat them there.”
Auburn basketball Tuesday night
Projected starting 5
* Blocks per game
About the game
Missouri (5-9, 0-2 SEC) vs. Auburn (10-5, 0-3 SEC)
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Mo.
TV: SEC Network
How to watch online: SECNetwork.com
Follow live stats: GameTracker