For the second time this season, the Tigers returned to the Plains after turning in back-to-back losses on the road, and Bruce Pearl is taking the remainder of the season one game at a time.
Despite acknowledging the widespread conception that the Tigers suffered in the absence of freshman phenom Isaac Okoro, Pearl was unwilling to go into depth about the team’s ability to fill the vacated role.
“No matter how you phrase it, it makes it sound like you’re making excuses,” Pearl said. “So, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Instead of making excuses as to what went wrong throughout the roadstand, the fifth-year head coach was all-business in Friday’s press conference. His opening statement was concentrating solely upon one matter: Tennessee.
It’s safe to say that Pearl has his concerns regarding Auburn’s ability to manufacture offense against the Volunteers.
“Tennessee comes in tomorrow morning and – defensively – they’re really good,” Pearl said. “The fact that we struggled so much offensively against a good defensive team in Georgia versus a great defensive team against Tennessee causes me some concern offensively.”
Pearl mentioned that the team’s ability to contest Volunteer big man John Fulkerson would be both vital to success and exciting to watch.
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“The matchup between Fulkerson and our five-man is going to be a great matchup,” Pearl said. “He’s the most efficient offensive post player in our league ... guarding him will be a challenge.”
Fulkerson, a 6-foot-9 forward from Kingsport, Tennessee, averages 13.0 points per game and is currently shooting a cool 62.9% from the field.
While Saturday’s contest against Tennessee is what Pearl seems to view as most important at the moment, the head coach also made it clear that there is no advantage to playing at home without the Jungle, and that there is – once again – an unofficial curfew for students.
“We need our students to get a curfew ... and I’ll be out there pregame,” Pearl said.
Pearl and company will continue their last-minute preparations for the Volunteers until tomorrow’s 11 a.m. tipoff at Auburn Arena.
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