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JwgreDeux

What I saw - Mizzou

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FINAL: Auburn 77 Missouri 72

With a gutty performance on the road, we picked up our first SEC win and matched last year's win total in only our 16th game of the season to move to 11-5. Its the last part of that sentence that I would encourage every Auburn fan to reflect on for a bit. With all the close games, off court issues, players arriving, and roster shuffling, we have already won as many games as we did all season last year. No doubt last year was disappointing and presented CBP with challenge after challenge, players transferring, injury, off court issues but this team has faced many of these issues as well and with a SEC win on the road signaled that this is a new team and new year. 

I'd like to highlight a few things that might point out the talent level of this team. Arguably our best player (Purifoy) didn't play, our most productive player was hampered with an ankle injury (Heron), our starting center was in foul trouble all night (Wiley), as was our starting fill-in at 4 (McLemore), and we were able to win, scoring 77 points on the road in the SEC (nearly 10 points above Mizzou's opponent scoring average). I highlight this to point out that scoring enough points to win will rarely be what costs us a game.  Even with players out, hurt, in foul trouble, and when chemistry is clearly lacking, we have the talent to put points on the board. 

Which brings me back to defense and rebounding. It wasn't good vs Mizzou, but it was much better in the second half than the first. Clearly, DP was missed in the game, especially in the first half. The team adjusted and played better in the second half, except from the free throw line. That shooting was atrocious, and if we had even shot a respectable percentage in the 60s when win this game comfortably. 

Our bench was the highlight of this game, out scoring our starters by a large margin. Leading the way was Brown, who shot 50% from 3, going 4 of 8. It was good to see him make a few, as I have said that he could be a barometer for this team going forward. 

Heron again was productive, even when struggling from the floor early, on a bum wheel. He closed the game out strong and ended up with 16 points (12 in the second half) and 9 boards. The value that he adds with his steady production is hard to put into words.  

Wiley played like a grown man when he was in the game. Clearly he is ready for this level of competition and physical play. He was a bit overzealous at times last night to get into foul trouble, but a couple of the calls on him were pretty ticky tacky.  Still you have to adjust to the officiating, something he will learn. 

This was a win he had to have, for so many reasons, but to stop some of the talk that surrounds this program when things get tough. The "here we go again" talk by our fans and alumni is toxic to the program. Does it affect the play on the court, no, but is certainly doesn't help improve the culture of Auburn basketball. I am certainly not saying we can't call a spade a spade with regard to coaching decisions or performance on the court. However, I would encourage you all to avoid the sky is falling mentality and recognize this will be CBP's best season, and we are seeing real improvement for the program. 

 As for CBP, I think he needs to do some real self evaluation of the rotations that we have been utilizing. I understand with injury, suspensions, and the addition of Wiley, he has a difficult task on his hands, but we have played some rotations that were head scratchers. We saw Smith and Spencer on the floor together for significant minutes last night. Multiple times they both attempted to block the same shot, 3 times getting the block, but still giving up a basket on the scramble as there was nobody left around the basket. This also affected defensive rebounding. We also saw combinations with Johnson as the 1 and Dunans as the 3, without a stretch 4 like Purifoy, we only had one shooter on the floor during these stretches. This resulted in Johnson driving and forcing some shots, and Dunans doing the same. By this time of year, we are seeing teams establish their primary rotations, we will see Kentucky next who only has 7 in their primary rotation. I'd like to see CBP start to do the same. It's one thing to play 10 guys when you have everyone healthy and a set rotation, but the issues faced by this team this year have prevented roster stability. The guys that I would favor for that 7-8 man rotation would be, Harper, Heron, Purifoy, Wiley, Brown, McLemore, Spencer and Dunans, with Johnson and Lang still getting some quality minutes, and Waddell and Smith being available in case of foul trouble. CBP seemed to admit struggling in this department in his post game interview. 

Where do we go from here? We have a very difficult game vs UK next, could we shock the world or get embarrassed, sure but I'd hope our young guns will look theirs in the eye and do some soul searching about who they are as players. Win or lose, this could be a good experience for us. After that we get a slate of games that are winnable if we play well. I said before this game that our RPI was still respectable and we had plenty to play for, a few wins in our next stretch can preserve that mentality as we see how the league begins to unfold.

War Eagle!

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Should have included that our game at Kentucky should help our RPI even in a loss, and the games vs LSU and Bama that follow are both RPI top 100 teams. So a good spurt here could not only help the W column, it could significantly help our RPI for any post season consideration. I emphasize, that if we can find a way to gel, we have a lot to play for. 

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Great analyses as usual. I love the realistic view of the program without either the Sky is Falling or with our Talent level we will get to the NCAA this year. You see both the good and the bad. I agree about how bad we were on FT's and if we had been better this would have been a very comfortable win but what was nice down the stretch when they were fouling us hoping for a couple of misses to allow them to cut into our lead we kept making FT's in the clutch.

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Here here on the rotation bit. Well whole thing was good of course but that was something i was thinking on last night as well as the game went along. Seems we have a constant flow of guys going in and out of the game regardless of what is actually happening in the game. I understand BP wants to play a lot of guys and i like that about him but it does seem to me like it could be hard to build that chemistry and team flow when people are constantly moving in and out of the lineup. I'm sure it is a combination of suspensions, injuries, and young team that is the cause of all the shuffling but i'd like to see that rotation trimmed down as well. Smith and Spencer should never be on the floor together and if you are going to play Waddell play him with plenty of scoring options on the floor. I love his effort and I think he brings a lot to the table on D and spacing the O but he is not a scoring threat. Side note of i'm soooo sad Dunans is struggling this year. I agree with everyone on here that he is a bit of a liability at this point. But man when he is going it is impressive and fun to watch. Passing, scoring, blocking shots.....he can do it all. Such a shame that he is playing out of control and forcing things right now. 

Edited by gravejd

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I've noticed whenever analysts talk about the two sophomores they always mention how it's been a really bad year for them. Obviously, they got the suspension which hurt, and Brown has struggled for the most part, but has Spencer really been that bad? Personally, I've been very pleased with his play. I think he's done a good job of blocking shots and I also think his offensive game is respectable for a guy who isn't one of our main scoring threats. I'm probably just looking at this wrong and maybe he's played horribly in everyone else's standards, but for some reason I just really respect what he brings to the team. What do y'all think of his play right now?

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I don't think Spencer has played poorly when he is on the court. I would assume when he is included in that reference it is due to him simply missing time due to his off court conduct. His blocks and rebounding are slightly down from last year, his points are about even, but his field go percentage is up. Maybe you could say he has been underwhelming since he hasn't taken a step forward, but I didn't expect his scoring to go up this year, but would have expected an improvement in rebounding. 

I think he brings great energy, is one of our better defenders, and rarely hurts on offense. I'm not sure how much more his game will grow, but I'd like to see him work on his free throw shooting and mid range jump shooting. He is undersized to play 4 at the next level with his current skill set. He needs all four years of college, put on some weight, develop more offensively, or develop his rebounding. He won't be a rim protector at the next level either, if he would resist the temptation to block every shot, he could be a more explosive Dennis Rodman type guy with his defense and energy. Staying on the floor, not chasing the blocks, would make him a better rebounder as well.  

Sorry I got off point there. No he hasn't played poorly. 

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I agree with everything you say. I'm rather excited to see if home can develop a mid range jumper like you mentioned. I've also noticed that since he worked his way back from suspension, he's taken a lot of Laron's minutes. I'm not sure if that's due to the fact that he'll be here longer, he's just better than Laron, or if Laron isn't good. Anyways, glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks he hasn't played poorly. Thanks for your insight

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10 minutes ago, au302 said:

I agree with everything you say. I'm rather excited to see if home can develop a mid range jumper like you mentioned. I've also noticed that since he worked his way back from suspension, he's taken a lot of Laron's minutes. I'm not sure if that's due to the fact that he'll be here longer, he's just better than Laron, or if Laron isn't good. Anyways, glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks he hasn't played poorly. Thanks for your insight

This isn't surprising at all. Smith and Spencer are similar players, and Spencer is a step above Smith. Wiley is the primary reason for Smith's minutes to go down though. His addition reduced the number of minutes for others. I would expect Wiley to continue to get more and more minutes as the season goes along. 

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People need to remember that we are still such a young team.  Sometimes the way we play and the mistakes we make are rough, but I'm hoping we will gel throughout the year and make a strong run in the SEC tourney.

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If Spencer could develop a Mid-range Jumper and concentrate more on rebounding then blocking shots in the future I could see us playing Wiley at 5, Spencer at 4,Purofoy at 3 Herron at 2, and Harper at 1.  I don't see it happening this year and it won't happen at all if Spencer does not become a rebounding force and improves his offensive game. Spencer needs to add muscle in the off season and coaches need to work on him using his body to block out which you can't do if  are always trying to block the opponents shot.

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9 minutes ago, AuburnNTexas said:

If Spencer could develop a Mid-range Jumper and concentrate more on rebounding then blocking shots in the future I could see us playing Wiley at 5, Spencer at 4,Purofoy at 3 Herron at 2, and Harper at 1.  I don't see it happening this year and it won't happen at all if Spencer does not become a rebounding force and improves his offensive game. Spencer needs to add muscle in the off season and coaches need to work on him using his body to block out which you can't do if  are always trying to block the opponents shot.

JMO but mid-range jumpers are over-rated....JMO but if he were more reliable within 5 feet of the basket he could be a real force.  I am stunned by the number of close in shots we miss....faulty jams and missed put-backs and tap backs.   We have had a lot of points get away this year from close in.   The problem in my view is that all of our big guys are BAD from the foul line and teams are willing to foul them rather than give up an easy basket.   Keep hoping we find a FT guru that can help those guys.

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A lot of criticism recently had been focused on the offense, yet our ability to score points is not what seems to be hurting us. It always seems to be our lack of defensive play.

So therefore, I would like to ask what is the matter with our D? Opponents 3-point percentages tend to increase against us because because we seem to ineffectively guard the three ball.

What does Coach Person need to do to fix the defense?

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47 minutes ago, AUTigersfan89 said:

A lot of criticism recently had been focused on the offense, yet our ability to score points is not what seems to be hurting us. It always seems to be our lack of defensive play.

So therefore, I would like to ask what is the matter with our D? Opponents 3-point percentages tend to increase against us because because we seem to ineffectively guard the three ball.

What does Coach Person need to do to fix the defense?

I would say the primary problem is two fold, 1. understanding assignments and 2. communication. The lack of understanding assignments is pretty obvious at times, failure of the help in be in proper position, failure to rotate on help in scrambles, all have led to a surplus of open shots for opposing teams. Communication is bad, and its obviously a problem. Any time we substitute and an opposing team comes down and gets a WIDE open 3, we simply failed to match up. This same problem shows itself in transition defense, we our guys fail to match up and follow sound defensive principles. Much of this is youth and lack of time together as a team. Take Kentucky for example, their team defense is not very sound either. They make up for it with size and length, which allows them to get away with more mistakes than an average team. Our talent level is high but not as high as theirs, so ours shows more, and leads to more losses. 

These same issues are why you don't see us play more zone, or have the ability to switch up defenses from zone to man and back. It is also why our press isn't as effective as we would like, our press is a zone press (like almost all presses are) and it requires communication and chemistry that we don't yet possess. 

These issues contribute to poor rebounding. Notice during the Mizzou game how they would get 3 and even 4 offensive rebounds in a row, it is because during the scramble we wouldn't get matched up, therefore we wouldn't be in rebounding position, and would end up with too many or too few guys in certain spots. 

Fix the communication issue in one aspect of the game, and we will improve multiple aspects as well. 

These problems can look like lack of effort, but are really more paralysis by analysis than lack of effort. It bothers me to see people say our guys don't hustle or whatever, because to me, as I watch, that is not what I'm seeing. Sure we don't have that guy that seems to be covered in floor burns all the time, but I think our guys are generally getting after it. 

CBP has a difficult task to teach these fundamentals to as well as implement all of the various game plans week to week, so it is no surprise we have fundamental lapses at times. The question is how much can we improve on these chemistry related items this season. 

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27 minutes ago, AUTigersfan89 said:

A lot of criticism recently had been focused on the offense, yet our ability to score points is not what seems to be hurting us. It always seems to be our lack of defensive play.

So therefore, I would like to ask what is the matter with our D? Opponents 3-point percentages tend to increase against us because because we seem to ineffectively guard the three ball.

What does Coach Person need to do to fix the defense?

It is little things players hustling but running under a screen instead of over a screen or switching we do it right most of the time but we do it wrong a few to many times. It is not effort it is communication and knowing when to switch when to fight over a pick or screen and when to go under. That is part of the issue the second part is other teams getting offensive rebounds which often lead to open 3 pointers or easy put backs . Improve our defensive rebounding and we cut down on other teams easy 3 point shots and easy put backs.

Our rebounding issue is a combination of we are often undersized compared to other teams, some players are more interested in blocking shots then blocking people out and a learning experience where older players are more adept at rebounding.

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24 minutes ago, AuburnNTexas said:

It is little things players hustling but running under a screen instead of over a screen or switching we do it right most of the time but we do it wrong a few to many times. It is not effort it is communication and knowing when to switch when to fight over a pick or screen and when to go under. That is part of the issue the second part is other teams getting offensive rebounds which often lead to open 3 pointers or easy put backs . Improve our defensive rebounding and we cut down on other teams easy 3 point shots and easy put backs.

Our rebounding issue is a combination of we are often undersized compared to other teams, some players are more interested in blocking shots then blocking people out and a learning experience where older players are more adept at rebounding.

The defense is getting more blame than warranted IMO....team ...guys taking most of the shots...just barely 40% from the field as a group and FT shooting has dropped and next to last in FG% ahead of MIzz...not surprising after watching the game the other night.   Middle of the pack in rebounding as bad as it looked the other night.

Funny to look at the stats....we are near the top in scoring average but also in shots taken and lead in 3PT attempts.  But in a run and shoot game, we are still being outscored.    Seems that effort toward defense and rebounding takes second fiddle to eagerness to get the ball down count and fire up a 3.     http://www.secsports.com/statistics/mens-basketball/team/scoring-per-game/avgThreePointFieldGoalsAttempted

Edited by AU64

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These seem like basic skills that should be ingrained by the time any of these top notch Bball players get to high school, much less college.  Is this an across the board issue happening at every school?  Do we just recruit players who can't communicate?  I don't understand not knowing how to call a switch or deciding to go above or below a pick at this level or ability or inability to swap back and forth from zone to man on D?  These are elite level athletes who have done this a long time.  What am I missing?

Appreciate your insight and vigilance explaining the goings ons on the hard court JwgreDeux

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I agree. Yea, we haven't had much time together as a team but that being said these guys have been playing together long enough that they should be a little better than this at the least imo

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Kentucky is probably going to want to settle a score in Rupp Arena and they are going to be up for this game. I hope that our guys keep their cool give them a respectable game which I believe we are capable of doing. Should be an interesting face off of their young guns against ours. With the likelihood of Malik Monk going electric on us, we have got to execute on defense. He is going to get his points, but I hope we can play smart and make it a game. As with UGA and Vandy, the elite talent guards seem to get our number at some point during the game and we haven't responded well. 

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