T.J. Lang (above) was a regular in the starting lineup this season.
Nashville, Tenn.--A pair of players who Coach Bruce Pearl will be counting on to be key performers for next season’s Auburn basketball team said a disappointing finish to the 2015-16 campaign doesn’t change their outlook that better days are on the horizon.
Both sophomore guard T.J. Lang and freshman center Horace Spencer noted that their team’s 97-59 loss to Tennessee in the opening round of the SEC Tournament left them with a feeling they don’t want to experience again.
“Defensively, we came out and didn’t really have a sense urgency and Tennessee made a lot of shots,” said Lang, a six-foot-seven guard. “They had their big man stepping out and making shots. We had a lot of easy layups and other shots, and we just couldn’t finish. After the poor start it was hard for us to recover.”
Lang said he is going to use the offseason to become a better all-around basketball player.
“Personally, I have to work on my mid-range and continue to try to be explosive when I go to the lane,” he said. “The scouting report is out and people know I can shoot so they try to close out pretty hard (on three-point shots). I have to continue to work on my game to get open.
“I also want to be a great defender,” the guard from Mobile said. “I am going to work on strengthening my ankle, something that inhibited me a little bit.
“With next season being my junior year, I have to take a leadership role,” he said. “We will have a lot of young guys and I have to explain to them that this feeling we have now is terrible. The pain we go through in the offseason is not nearly as bad as what we are feeling now.”
The Tigers finished the season with an 11-20 record in a year that started with potential to be much better, but got derailed by injuries and other attrition.
“The main thing is for us to come together as a team,” Lang said. “Even this year, when we came together as a team, there was no team in the league we couldn’t beat on a given night.
“Next year we are going to have more talent coming in and more depth, but the main thing is for us to buy into the system and genuinely care about each other as much as you care for yourself,” Lang added. “If we do that, and train like we don’t want to have to go through this again, I feel like we will have a really good future.”
Horace Spencer was a part-time starter for the Tigers as a freshman center.
Spencer, who was Auburn’s top shot blocker, has the potential to take his play to a higher level, Pearl pointed out.
“I want to become more of a force on the defensive end,” Spencer said. “We have to be more dominant and control the paint, do a better job of rebounding and control where our men go as well as control the tempo of the game.”
Spencer, who played at Findlay Prep in Nevada last season, pointed out the more he played as a freshman the more comfortable he became.
“I got a lot better in the second half of the season,” the six-foot-nine center said. “My offensive game picked up and I got a little better defensively and it showed in the Kentucky game and the Alabama game.
“I still have to get my offensive game to catch up with my defense,” he added. “There a lot of spots I need to brush up on, but I am still young. I just turned 19 in January so I have some time to grow.”