Auburn basketball: 3 keys to victory against South Alabama

Auburn football Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn football Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports /

Auburn basketball looks to even its record to 2-2 when they host South Alabama in their 2020-21 home opener Friday night.

The 2020-21 Auburn basketball season was put under duress the moment a scandal was announced for the Alabama basketball program. Soon after, Bruce Pearl’s squad had self-imposed a postseason ban in 2021, rendering the results of the regular season useful for developmental purposes only.

Now, the Tigers look to find meaning in this slog of a slate that has had a somewhat stilted start. Following a skin-of-their-teeth victory against St. Joseph’s to start the season, Auburn has fallen to Gonzaga and UCF in consecutive contests.

Now, they look to bounce back against an inter-state rival: South Alabama of the Sun Belt. Can they improve their all-time 7-4 record, one that includes consecutive victories the past two seasons and a 70-69 win last year?

Here’s how they can avoid a third straight loss to open the 2020-21 season:

Tire out South Alabama’s lineup

So far, in their two games against Division I opponents, Head Coach Richie Riley has opted to shrink his rotation as much as possible. Only seven guys saw the floor in a loss against Jacksonville State–with his bench playing a combined 20 minutes–and only seven players saw more than 10 minutes against Florida Atlantic in their season opener.

If Pearl can have his guys out running and gunning early, the Tigers could tire out the Jaguars and force the guys Riley trusts with all of his minutes to be huffing and puffing early on.

Dominate with the second unit

Auburn basketball has one of the best benches in the SEC, and they should look to impose their will early and often against South Alabama. Jamal Johnson, Justin Powell, and Babatunde Akingbola will all have the advantage of having fresh legs against the Jaguars lineup which, as mentioned, will be shouldering a heavy minutes load.

As long as the second unit pushes the pace, Riley’s starters should have problems matching the intensity of Pearl’s bench platoon.

Contain Michael Flowers

A transfer out of the MAC’s Western Michigan, Michael Flowers was given eligibility to play this season late. Initially ruled ineligible, he was given the green light to play this year in early October. Flowers–a dynamite scorer who averaged 17.1 points per game at Western Michigan last season–has one season of eligibility at South Alabama. So far, he’s wasted no time assimilating, having been an immediate contributor for a Jaguars team who lost seven seniors off last year’s team.

Slowing down Flowers would force Tyreke Locure and Kayo Goncalves to have to step up in ways they may not be capable of. That could be the most obvious key to victory for Auburn basketball tomorrow night.

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