With four starters scoring in double figures and a fifth just five points short of a 10.0 average, No. 5 Auburn is far from a one-man show as it looks to maintain its status as one of two undefeated NCAA Division I teams by hosting struggling Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
And the way coach Bruce Pearl sees it, that will be the key to continued success for the Tigers (13-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference).
“That gives me hope that we can become a pretty good team because right now we are a good team,” Pearl said when former Ole Miss coach-turned television analyst Andy Kennedy observed that a different player is stepping up every game for the Tigers. “But we got a chance to be pretty good if we can keep on developing that.”
Over the last six games, four players have led the Tigers in scoring — forward Isaac Okoro (18 vs. Furman), guard J’Von McCormick (20 vs. Saint Louis, 18 vs. Lehigh and 28 vs. Mississippi State), guard Samir Doughty (24 vs. North Carolina State) and forward Danjel Purifoy (17 vs. Lipscomb).
Doughty leads the team in scoring for the season with a 16.3 average followed by Okoro (12.9), McCormick (11.9) and center Austin Wiley (10.8). Purifoy is five points short of double digits with 125 points in 13 games, a 9.6 average.
Vanderbilt will be the first of two home games this week for the Tigers, who entertain Georgia on Saturday evening. The Commodores (8-5, 0-0 SEC) come to Auburn off a 92-81 overtime loss to SMU in which they lost a 15-point cushion with 6:28 to play and a six-point lead in the last 36 seconds of regulation.
After shooting 50 percent in the first half, the Commodores were just 12 of 28 from the field in the second and made only one basket in seven shots in the overtime.
“It’s tough because they were feeling good at halftime,” first-year coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “They had a good rhythm, they had good confidence. For us not to walk away with a win will sting. We’re about to start SEC play. It’s just about a feeling of going in at 9-4 instead of 8-5, but it is what it is.”
Forward Aaron Nesmith leads the SEC in scoring with a 23.4 average after scoring 29 against SMU, and guard Saben Lee is next for the Commodores at 15.8. Lee scored only seven points against the Mustangs, however, the first time he hasn’t been in double figures this season.
Freshman Scotty Pippen, the son of former NBA great Scottie Pippen, filled the scoring gap with 15 points for his third double-figure effort in his last four games and eighth this season.
“We’re continuing to learn how to win the game,” Stackhouse said. “I think it’s learning how to win at this level. We’re playing some young guys that haven’t really had experience at playing at this level and what it takes to finish off games.”
–Field Level Media