Following its win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, Auburn head coach said the stretch run of the SEC for his team was going to get tougher. Auburn’s fourth-year head coach even used a golf comparison to describe what his team was going to face.
"There are a lot of hazards on this back nine now," Pearl said. “We really don't have a bogey yet, but these holes are getting tougher.”
The Tigers picked up their first bogey in SEC play Wednesday night, dropping a heartbreaker to Texas A&M 81-80.
Auburn rallied from a 17-point second half deficit to take the lead midway through the half, but fell short on a free throw by Texas A&M’s Duane Wilson with 3.5 seconds to play.
"Looking back at A&M, it was a great college basketball game, great environment,” Pearl said. “Auburn Arena was rocking, and our fans did everything they possibly could to pull us back. I thought our kids competed, obviously, being down 17 and giving ourselves a chance to win the game talks about our character and the effort, the resilience, the grit of this team. That said, we didn't execute well enough, either with our defense, our game plan, some of the breakdowns that we had, attention to the scouting report.
“So, I look at those factors as reasons why we lost the game in addition to a great effort by Texas A&M, and I do think Texas A&M is going to be a tournament team. We talked about that before the game.
Auburn played the final 23-plus minutes without Bryce Brown, its leading scorer, after the junior suffered a shoulder strain on a blocked dunk attempt.
Pearl said Brown will miss practice Thursday and undergo testing to determine the severity of the injury.
“Bryce Brown will be evaluated today, a little later on this morning,” Pearl said. “He has not seen the doctor yet, he had class all morning, and so he still has a left shoulder sprain. We may have some more information later today or tomorrow.
"There's a chance we won't have him (against Georgia).”
With Brown’s status in question, Pearl said he will rely on his four other guards – Jared Harper, Mustapha Heron, Malik Dunbar and Davion Mitchell – to replace Brown’s production on both ends of the court.
“We have four guards that are still in a position to play,” Pearl said. “They just all have to share the load, and that’s what we would do.”
Auburn, which is 21-3 overall and 9-2 in the SEC, will travel to Athens on Saturday to take on Georgia, who fell to Vanderbilt 81-66 Wednesday.
“They’ve just come off a seven-game stretch where they were on the road five times, and they went 2-5 in that stretch,” Pearl said. “Life on the road in the SEC is no fun. But, they are 9-2 at home.
“Again, the defense and rebounding, the size was something that was a problem for us against Texas A&M, and it was certainly a problem for us in the first half against Georgia where they built a 14-point halftime lead, which was our largest halftime deficit of the season. Given the fact that Georgia played us so well for 20 minutes and given the fact that we may be going there without one of our best players, we've got our work cut out for us."
Auburn will look to complete the season sweep of Georgia after defeating the Bulldogs 79-65 on on Jan. 20. Tip-off on Saturday is set for 2:30 p.m. CST inside Stegeman Coliseum on the SEC Network.