Auburn (18-8, 8-5)will travel to Nashville this Saturday to take on the Vanderbilt Commadores (14-12, 7-6) in what is a battle of two teams playing impressive basketball recently. Auburn will look to win its second straight, while Vanderbilt tries to extend its win streak to five.
“They are on a four game winning streak right now, they are playing well,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Tigers will look to build off an impressive win against Missouri. Johni Broome is coming off yet another double-double, with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and will need to show his physicality in the paint for Auburn to have a chance to come out victorious.
Vanderbilt was able to secure their fourth consecutive win against South Carolina by a score of 75-64 midweek. The Commadores were able to dominate the boards with 45 rebounds, 18 of which came on the offensive glass.
“Vanderbilt is one of the more physical teams in our league,” Pearl said.
Liam Robbins is the player to watch out for on the Commadores. The fifth year senior has been a force throughout the season, as he leads the SEC in blocks with his 7-0, 250-pound frame.
Robbins leads the Commadore offense with 14.7 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. The forward will by far be the biggest problem for the Tigers, as he has scored a combined 56 points and 18 rebounds in the past two games.
“He is a big, strong, physical player that can score one-on-one down there by himself,” Pearl said. “He is a man hard to keep off the boards. Three blocks a game. They will guard ball screens and he will be down there in drop coverage, so he's not going to leave the paint very much.”
The offense is also led by backcourt duo Tyrin Lawrence and Jordan Wright who both average at least 10 points per game.
Lawrence has impressed over a three-year career with Vanderbilt and will be the second focus on the defensive end for Auburn, only behind Robbins. Pearl hinted that Allen Flanigan will be matchup up on the guard and will play a big role in slowing down the opposing offense.
Pearl mentioned how well Flanigan has been playing recently and finding his role after a rough season last year.
“I think the thing is efficiency. He is shooting a good percentage, not trying to do too much but still playing with confidence and being aggressive, not turning the ball over,” Pearl said. “It is fun to see him have a little bit of joy out there.”
Regardless of if the stars are hitting shots and playing their roles, the bench is a place Vanderbilt head coach Jerry Stackhouse can turn to. The Commadores have 13 players that have featured in at least 14 games this season. The bench presence is not to go unnoticed as it has averaged 30 points per game which is best for sixth in the country.
An interesting aspect to the game which may possibly pose a challenge for Auburn is the layout of the court. The playing surface is raised up while the benches are on either baseline. This often possess a challenge for visitors as it is a very uncommon situation and coaches have a hard time communicating with players.
“It is different,” Pearl said. “The ability to communicate with your team on both ends is important and I think we have seen that.”
The bench situation will be something to keep an eye out for as the Tigers go for their second straight win. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. with broadcasting by SEC Network.