Bryce Brown (above) has performed well in recent games as a starting guard.
Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn basketball team has had more than its fair share of injury problems at the guard positions early in the season. With juniors Tahj Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunans both still unable to play, true freshman Bryce Brown received his second start of the season and made the most of his opportunity as the Tigers opened SEC play with an 83-77 win vs. the Tennessee Volunteers.
Brown scored 20 points, which matched his career high from the previous game at Hawaii. He did it on 5-10 shooting, including 5-9 beyond from beyond the three-point line.
“I’m really just trusting my teammates and letting things come to me,” Brown explained when asked about how he’s improved his play over the last few games. “I’m getting everything on defense first and letting my offense come.”
Late in the first half, another starting guard suffered an injury as sophomore T.J. Lang went down after taking a blow to the head hustling to get a loose ball. After the game Coach Bruce Pearl noted that Lang was showing concussion-like symptoms.
In his absence, Brown stepped up in a huge way in the second half, scoring 17 of his 20 in the final 20 minutes while also scoring 13 of the Tigers’ first 17 points to begin the half.
“I was feeling it at the moment,” Brown said of his hot start to the second half. “(My teammates) were hitting me in the right spots. I got open and knocked the shots down. The head coach and the assistant coaches trust me to make shots and I did it.”
One of Brown’s teammates, junior point guard Kareem Canty, definitely noticed how well he was playing during the contest.
“FInd him until he misses,” stated Canty on his objective early in the second half. “That’s what I was thinking. It’s just fun to see somebody else get into a rhythm like that, especially a freshman.”
Brown’s recent progress and good play has definitely not gone unnoticed by Pearl, who was full of praise for the Stone Mountain, Ga., native after the game. However, it was not Brown’s on-fire shooting that Pearl was quick to point out.
“Bryce was the only guy that could guard (senior Kevin) Punter,” said Pearl. Punter is the leading scorer for the Volunteers, averaging 22.2 points per game. He had a season-high 31 against Auburn.
“That’s even a stretch because (Punter) did a great job,” Pearl noted. “This is what’s exciting about Bryce Brown. He is a great shooter, but he is also a great defender. To be a young player and be able to do those two things, he is going to play a lot of basketball here at Auburn and he’s going to put up a lot of numbers.”
Pearl said that it is no surprise that Brown is playing well. "I would say that is what I expected when we recruited him. There was a dely in him showing me this in the preseason. I thought he had a geat summer and then this fall he had some setbacks and didn't show this. I was going to make him show me he has it so I am excited."
Brown will most likely need to continue his hot streak if he and the Tigers hope to defeat the last remaining undefeated team in the SEC, the South Carolina Gamecocks. The game will take place on Tuesday at Auburn Arena with tipoff set for 6 p.m. CST and television coverage on the SEC Network.
The freshman has scored in double figures six times, including the last three games when he has averaged 17.7 points on 18-34 shooting, including 14-of-28 behind the three-point line.