Auburn (0-1) plays its home opener Friday night in Neville Arena against Southeastern Louisiana (1-0). The Tigers lost a heartbreaker against Baylor to open its season, but the squad have the chance to right the ship Friday night.
Southeastern Louisiana finished third in the Southland Conference last season but was the pre-season favorite to win their conference this year. The Lions opened its season with a 90-71 win at home over Delta State.
While the Lions will have the full attention of Auburn, the Tigers will be more focused on themselves and how they can improve. The Tigers will not be concerned that they outmatch the Lions. The focus will be on improving from its loss against Baylor.
"We’re better than that," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said after the Baylor loss. "We’re a better team than we played tonight.”
Auburn played well in a lot of areas in its first game, but ultimately made too many mistakes to win. Against Southeastern Louisiana Friday night, the Tigers will attempt to mitigate those issues.
The biggest issue for the Tigers in the opener may have been fouling. The team combined for 32 fouls throughout the game. Johni Broome was the only Tiger to foul out of the game, but four other players had four fouls.
“We fouled 32 times and had guys in foul trouble all game long," Pearl said. "Baylor was in the bonus after five minutes of basketball (in the second half). I know in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a high-level game. It was too much of a foul fest. We were in foul trouble in the second half and didn’t play nearly as well in the second half as we did in the first.”
Auburn has always played aggressive defense, which leads to more fouling, but they will seek to improve in that area Friday night. One way an outmatched opponent can stay in a game is by giving up opportunities at the charity strike.
Another issue Auburn will try to fix Friday night is turnovers. The Tigers turned the ball over 15 times in their opener, including seven from the point guard position.
"Our point guards had seven turnovers; that’s not typical," Pearl said.3
Southeastern Louisiana will not play the same quality defense as Baylor did, so Auburn should have a good chance to improve in this area.
Overall, Auburn looks like a team that can be really good. They led for most of the game against a good Baylor team. It was only one game, though, and mistakes were expected. The question is: how quickly can they correct these mistakes?
The Tigers will have a great opportunity Friday night, in front of what no doubt will be an excited Neville Arena, to get its first win of the season. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. C.T. on SEC Network +.