To accomplish the goal Auburn will have to pull off a regular season sweep of a team battling for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn did not help LSU’s cause for making the tournament field when Pearl’s Tigers upset the Bayou Bengals 81-77 in Baton Rouge on Feb. 5th.
The Auburn coach was critical of his team’s performance in a 110-75 loss at Kentucky on Saturday. His opinion has not changed since having time to study that loss and talk about it with his players.
“I was very disappointed in our effort, our execution and in our commitment to guarding Kentucky, particular in the beginning of the game,” Pearl said. “They scored every time down, and they scored at will.
“In many cases we didn’t pay attention to the game plan as far as what we were supposed to do,” Pearl said. “We didn’t compete. We were obviously overwhelmed. The question is are we capable or are we just not willing?”
The coach noted that his team is working on improving its defense in practice this week and seems to have made progress. “We worked and got a little better with what we are trying to do,” he said.
Auburn brings a 12-15 record into the game and is 4-10 in the SEC. LSU is 19-8 overall and 8-7 in the league.
All-SEC candidate Jordan Mickey is LSU’s top player. He is averaging 16.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest. In the first game vs. Auburn the 6-8 forward scored 23 points while adding a dozen rebounds.
Jarrell Martin, a 6-10 forward,also posted a double-double in that first matchup as he scored 14 points and pulled in 16 rebounds vs. the Tigers. For the season he is averaging 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Jordan Mickey (left) and Jarrell Martin will be a challenge for the smaller Auburn Tigers to deal with on Tuesday night.
In Baton Rouge this season LSU led AU 73-72 with 1:19 to play after guard Tim Quarterman hit a pair of free throws, but Auburn took the lead for good on a basket by Bowers. After a turnover by Mickey the Tigers added a pair of free throws by Mason and then hung on for the victory.
“Tim Quarterman is playing the point more,” Pearl said of how LSU has changed since the first matchup. The 6-6 guard is averaging 11.2 points per game. “Josh Gray has moved off the ball a little bit to more of a scoring guard position,” Pearl said.
“They have gone away from starting their three bigs,” the coach pointed out. “Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey are playing four and five where as Martin was playing some three. They were playing really big, and they are a little bit more conventional as far as that is concerned. Quarterman is a big point guard, but it was a good adjustment. Gray can score and do what he does comfortably. He can still play point.
“Since we played them they beat Alabama, they almost beat Kentucky and they lost at Texas A&M, but beat Florida. They are playing a little better and they are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. Every time you turn on bracketology, in the bad loss column there is Auburn. You look at Georgia’s bad loss column and there is Auburn as well. We are a bad loss and they want to avoid that obviously.”
Commenting on what his team’s motivation is down the stretch, Pearl said, “My goal always was to see where our RPI is when it is all done. You can’t compare this year’s schedule to last year’s schedule. You can’t compare this year in the league to last year in the league. It is too different. I would like to finish higher in our RPI than we finished a year ago (160).” The Tigers are currently at 132.
“We talked to the team about still finding a way to be postseason eligible,” Pearl said. “We have to put a few together to make that happen. We have been in the bottom four (of the SEC) pretty much all year. You have Missouri, Auburn, South Carolina and then Vanderbilt, and maybe Mississippi State right there. We just take it one game at a time and see if we can figure out a way to match up with the next opponent we have. We don’t really look at how many we have or who we can beat. We just want to get the next one.”
Game Coverage: ESPNU will televise the contest. The radio broadcast by the Auburn Network can be heard on Sirius channel 93 and XM 190.
Senior guard Antoine Mason launches a shot vs. LSU.Mason vs. LSU: Mason finished with a season-high 29 points on Saturday vs. Kentucky. He may have had his best all-around game vs. LSU when he scored 24 points and pulled in eight rebounds while adding five steals with three assists.
Injury Report, Part 1: Pearl noted that guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen’s surgery on his left shoulder went well and the sophomore is scheduled to have surgery on his right shoulder in four to six weeks.
Injury Report, Part 2: Center Matthew Atewe, who has missed the entire regular season with a leg injury, is also recovering from an injured hand. “He is doing okay,” Pearl said. “He had a pretty bad spill--actually he had two of them, but one time he came down on his hand. It was bothering him a little bit so they thought he would be better off getting a piece of (bone) fragment out surgically as opposed to letting it float around. He is going to be okay.”
Atewe, a six-foot-nine sophomore, is being redshirted this season.
Winning at Home: Pearl’s Tigers haven’t won at Auburn Arena since defeating South Carolina on January 17th. Pearl said the coaches talked to the players about the need to win on Tuesday to thank the fans for their support. “We owe it to them to get another win or two here at home going down the stretch because the crowds have been great,” he said. “The home court just doesn’t get it done for us. We have to be able to play well to win it.”
Up Next: The Tigers will hit the road for a Saturday game vs. Texas A&M.