The No. 19 ranked Auburn Tigers (18-2) are off to its fourth-best start in program history after defeating Missouri Wednesday night.
The Tigers are much improved on the defensive side of the ball this season, but recently, the winning streak can most be attributed to their high-scoring second-half performances.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl believes there’s a reason his players perform better in crunch time.
“I think its these kids,” Pearl said in a press conference Thursday morning. “I think it’s their will to win, their resiliency, and not wasting possessions and opportunities to make plays. That’s been one of our biggest themes, we can’t just sit back and hope they miss. We’ve got to force the action. We’ve got to make plays.”
Auburn is No. 25 in the country when it comes to second half margin. They are outscoring their opponents by an average of 11 points when it matters most, and four out of the last five games, the Tigers have scored at least 50 points in the second half.
Pearl also noted that another key to Auburn’s second-half success is the fact that they wear the other teams down with their deep rotation and aggressive style of play.
“The biggest reason is, with the exception of a couple of guys, we share the minutes,” Pearl said. “…I think teams are tired when they get done playing us because we play with effort and energy, and we share the minutes. That’s why we’ve been able to do well in the second half.”
After taking over sole possession of first place in the SEC, Auburn will now have to shift its focus to LSU who comes to town Saturday night.
“They’re 3-1 on the road,” Pearl said. “They’ve beaten five teams in the top 50 of the RPI. And, they don’t turn the ball over, which we rely on a lot to get some offense from our defense.”
LSU is led by freshman point guard Tremont Waters who leads the conference in steals per game, and is second in the league in assists per game. Pearl expects his team to be up for the challenge.
“Our fans are going to be treated to Tremont Waters,” Pearl said. “He is a dynamic point guard that really has helped that team go. It’ll be a great matchup between our guards, all of our guards, Jared, Davion, Bryce, the guys that will be primary covers for him.”
Pearl, when asked about how the team goes about scouting a different team each week, assured that his young team is locked in and ready for the test that LSU poses.
“We try to keep things consistent,” Pearl said. “What you have to do in a scout is paint a picture for them to figure out how we can beat this team, and it’s a different picture every night…They see a road to victory through that scouting report…We’ve got to get excited about playing these guys and keep getting better.”