No. 4 Auburn will take on rival Alabama this Wednesday in Tuscaloosa as one of two undefeated teams in the country at 15-0 (3-0 SEC).
While the Tigers have yet to lose, Alabama is 8-7 with a 1-2 record in the SEC. Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said Alabama’s record doesn’t reflect the threat Alabama has been this year.
“They are 6-3 in their last nine games,” Pearl said. “Three of those losses were at Kentucky, which was a very late possession game, at Florida, where they had a 20-point lead or big lead, and then at Penn State where they led most of the game.”
Alabama has played three teams that have been in the top-25 thus far, with Auburn being the fourth ranked team the Tide will face. In contrast, Auburn has yet to play a ranked opponent.
Alabama brings to the court a fast-paced team that excels in 3-point shooting.
“They are one of the fastest teams in the country,” Pearl said. “They are third in the country in tempo, that is hard to do. They are getting it and going. They are playing with great freedom. They are the best 3-point shooting team in our league, and they are hard to guard because of it.”
Alabama is averaging 10.7 three-pointers a game. John Petty Jr. has 53 3-pointers on the season. The Tide is averaging 83.2 points per game and is ranked first in the SEC and seventh in the nation in scoring offense. Petty Jr. and sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr. have combined for 493 points, the third-best scoring pair in the SEC.
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On the defensive side, Auburn has the overall advantage. The Tigers are limiting opponents to an average of 66.3 points per game. Alabama’s opponents are averaging 78.7 points against the Tide.
Rebounding is an area where both teams are closely matched. Auburn is ranked seventh in the country with an average of 41.93 rebounds per game while Alabama stands at tenth in the country with an average of 41.60. Auburn and Alabama are one and two in the SEC in rebounds per game.
Auburn hopes its defense can lead it to its second consecutive win against the Tide in Tuscaloosa, a feat that has not been done since 1969-1971.
“Slow them down a little bit,” said Auburn freshman forward Isaac Okoro of how Auburn plans to approach the Tide’s offense. “Make sure that their main players get tired during the press. That’ll slow them down.”
Auburn knows that winning this game means just a little more than others.
“It is a big game, hostile environment, a lot of people going to be there, so I just want to go out there for the Auburn fans and get a W,” Okoro said.
Overall, Alabama has the advantage in the rivalry when at home, winning 47 games against the Tigers compared to Auburn’s 10 wins against the Tide in the teams' last 57 matchups in Tuscaloosa.
“It is a dangerous opponent,” Pearl said. “Obviously it’s a rivalry game for us, and we are going to have to be able to handle the environment and look forward to the opportunity to get a win that most people won’t get at Alabama.”
Taking into consideration Alabama’s strengths and the environment at Coleman Coliseum, Pearl thinks this will be Auburn’s toughest game thus far.
“This will probably be the most hostile environment that we’ll play in,” Pearl said. “... It’ll be our most challenging game thus far. Obviously, Saint Louis has probably got the best net number of the teams we’ve played. The two teams we played in Brooklyn, Richmond and New Mexico, are both having good years. Anytime you win at Mississippi State, that’s a tough place to play. But so far this will be our toughest game.”
Auburn will face off against Alabama at 8 p.m. CST at Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night.
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