NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn is moving on in its conference bracket for the first time since March 2015.
Bruce Pearl's Tigers downed Missouri 81-71 on Day 2 of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, setting up a date with 4-seed South Carolina tomorrow.
Here's everything Auburn's head coach had to say about his team's win.
Start off by congratulating Missouri. Those guys had won three out of the last four games. They stayed engaged. They're a good enough basketball team to beat the 22nd ranked team in the country. That's a credit to Cuonzo Martin, his coaching staff and the character of that team.
I didn't start off caring for Jordan Geist very much when he first started competing. He was sort of one of those players that if he was on your team, you'd love him. If he was on the other team, he bothered you. I want to congratulate him on a great career. Then when you see the combination of Geist and then Watson, you see sort of the torch being passed.
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Those guys beat us in here a couple years ago. But now they've got some young players, that torch is going to be passed. I want to congratulate these two seniors for getting their first SEC tournament win. It had been three years without a tournament win. That was a big win for them. I think the players thought about those guys, making sure we got one.
GOOD MINUTES FROM MALIK DUNBAR
I think if you look at the stat sheet, we had nine guys in double-digit minutes, four guys score in double-digits. Malik, he's just been super patient. He works hard. He's a physical presence. He'd like to do more, but he knows when he forces the issue sometimes, gets himself into some trouble situations.
I thought he was just patient. That attitude, that effort, that unselfishness, it's just contagious. Our guys see him being locked in, handling the moment, contributing, it's impressive.
DANJEL PLAYED HIS MOST SINCE FRESHMAN YEAR
Danjel played maybe 16 minutes in the first half. He played a lot. The fact that he was in shape to be able to play that many minutes, the fact that his teammates trusted him to be able to be out there. Then the second half he made a big shot that really made a difference. He had a really nice slip, made some good passes. We're best when everybody contributes. I think that's the danger of our team. This might be the first big game we've won where Jared Harper didn't have to carry us.
Missouri did a good job defensively on both Bryce and Jared. A lot of pressure on Jared to run the club, my biggest communicator defensively. He's a leader. Just was a little off tonight. Missouri had something to do with that. The fact we could win without him having a big game was huge.
WHAT DID YOU SEE FROM MIZZOU'S TORRENCE WATSON?
He's fearless. He has guts. He sees it, he can shoot. He has good size. Those young freshmen were highly-recruited kids. They've gotten better. Coach Martin, he's got a great staff. They got some really good guards coming back.
SOUTH CAROLINA MATCHUP?
Frank Martin has my number, not just my phone number but my number. I think he's won three out of the last five, something along those lines. What they do defensively bothers us. They extend. Makes it hard to run your stuff. You overplay.
They're physical, they're tough. Silva is a major factor, how the officials referee him is huge. He's so active, athletic, bouncy. He gets himself into some trouble, he draws a lot of fouls. Draws a lot of contact. I remember we had a chance when we went to South Carolina. Had a couple last possessions. They got the better of us.
WAS AUSTIN WILEY AVAILABLE?
Austin had his first contact practice this week. He's getting closer. But I thought Anfernee and Horace at this time of the year here right now are playing well together, playing well, complementing each other.
I think Austin, he's getting closer to being available. Right now, Anfernee and Horace are doing a nice job.
HORACE SPENCER AS A SPARKPLUG TONIGHT?
Just that. Energy, offensive rebounding, physicality, toughness, courage. He knows who he is. Had some big plays. Made his free throws. I mean, blocks and steals.
He's so athletic and experienced. Really, really happy for Horace. We don't win without him.
HOW IMPORTANT WOULD WILEY BE AGAINST SILVA?
We've needed Wiley all year. It's a good question. Don't mean to be glib, if that's the right word. You guys are all writers. I don't know if that fits. Sure we do. But we need Austin. Yesterday was his first contact practice, how would he be out there in the SEC tournament against Silva when he's been out for four weeks? So Horace and Anfernee right now are playing, rotation has been good. Yeah, we miss a healthy Austin Wiley. A healthy Austin Wiley would be dominating out there.
He's as good as any center in the league. Not only getting healthy, it's having your first contact practice, it's actually having several practices so that you can get timing. It's tough in March.
ANFERNEE MCLEMORE'S JOURNEY FROM INJURY TO NOW
He made a couple tonight. If you talk to coaches that prepare for us, it's one of the most difficult things to prepare for, a shooting five man. Sometimes you have to give him some shots and hope he doesn't make them.
The other thing is he has abilities outside of that. His defense, ability to block shots. It takes a while to recover from such a horrific injury. The fact that he's played every game for us this year is a testament to his toughness. But I think there's still another level that he has. We may not see it till next year.
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