Auburn basketball has been victorious in its past 26 contests inside Neville Arena, and basketball experts and analysts believe that their home court advantage is one of the best in all of college basketball. However, over the past few years, the confidence and winning mentality seemingly gets left on the Plains when the Tigers travel, and tonight’s game in Athens adds to the list of increasingly frustrating examples.
Many remember Auburn’s most recent trip to Athens which ended in a controversial no call allowing Auburn to escape in a 74-72 victory. Tonight’s contest had neither the competitiveness, nor the court side adrenaline that most Auburn games provide.
The Auburn Tigers (11-3, 1-1 SEC) traveled down to Athens, GA to take on the GeorgiaBulldogs (11-3, 1-0 SEC) for both team’s first game of the 2023 calendar year. Auburn took their third loss on the chin (2 road losses, one neutral site loss) of the season, falling 76-64.
“We didn’t get off to a very good start which you have to in order to win on the road” head coach Bruce Pearl stated early in his post-game remarks.
For an Auburn team that prides themselves on the defensive side of the ball, the defensive laziness traveled to the other end of the floor throughout all forty minutes. Georgia shot better than their season average on field goals both inside and outside the three-point line (45.3%, 40% from three) thanks to Auburn’s ball watching, late rotations, and essentially non-existent weak side rebound/defensive help.
“Our challenge has been when we’ve gone up against really good guards, elite guards like Memphis and USC,” head coach Bruce Pearl vocalized in regard to Georgia’s Roberts and Oquendo combining for 43 of the Dawgs 76 points. “We have to have better point guard play, our guards are having a hard time staying in front of people,” Pearl later added.
With a defensive foundation that Auburn has built, offensive struggles generally do not have the magnification that tonight’s game did. Nonetheless, having to take the ball out of the net every other defensive possession eliminates any chance of transition basketball that Auburn thrives in. Instead, the Bulldogs forced the Auburn offense to run halfcourt sets, which created very limited success.
The playbook seemed quite simple for the Tigers tonight: try to draw a foul, complain when a whistle isn’t blown, bring the same low levels of apathy to the defensive side of the ball, repeat. Auburn shot 34% on 24-69 shooting and only 21.4% from 3 on 6-28 attempts. Take away Broome’s 22 points on 9-17 shooting (2-5 from behind the arc) and Flanigan’s 11 points on 5-10 shooting, the remaining 10 players that received minutes shot a combined 10-42 (23.8%).
Auburn will be back on their home court to take on #13 Arkansas on January 7th at 7:30 PM CT. We will see which Auburn Basketball team decides to show up with their 26-game home winning streak in jeopardy.