While disappointed about the cancellation of Thursday night’s events, Bruce Pearl offered his grievances about the performance of his team’s defense.
The fifth-year head coach led Auburn to its first conference championship since 1999 in 2017, finishing with a 26-8 record. Per Kenpom.com, Auburn tied for the nation’s 36th-most efficient defense last season, allowing 96.7 points through an approximated 100 possessions.
Now, with the absences of Mustapha Heron, Desean Murray and Davion Mitchell, Pearl has noticed a difference in practice.
“Again, I’ll probably be identifying it over the course of the season,” Pearl said, “but we lost some really good on-ball defenders from a year ago that were really good, that required no help, that could keep a guy in front.”
The next guy up will have to compete to fill in that on-ball defender slot, Pearl said, or “[they’re] going to have to provide them with help on rotations, and that’s how defenses break down.”
Auburn will return Anfernee McLemore this season after he led the conference with 2.3 blocks per game. The 6-foot-7 junior returns after recovering from a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered in February.
Through the 2017-18 season, Auburn allowed 73.2 points per game while blocking 5.3 shots per game, tied for 11th-best in the nation.
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Now 26 days away from the season opener, team progression is halted.
“I’ve got to move forward with other things, but I can’t move forward until we get some of the defensive fundamentals down,” Pearl said. “The fact that we’ve haven’t picked it up is slowing our progress.”
In addition to defensive concerns, the head coach said that he hoped to improve his team’s 1.17 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Auburn will open the season against South Alabama on Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. CT inside the Auburn Arena. The game will air on the SEC Network.
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