The Auburn Tigers look to snap a two-game losing streak when they host the surging South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday night.
TV Schedule: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at 7:00 PM ET, ESPNU
Location: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Alabama
It was all good just a week ago. The Auburn Tigers were the No. 4 team in the nation according to the AP poll, one of the last remaining unbeaten teams in the country.
Then, the Tigers hit the road to face the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators – two teams who are solid, to be sure, but certainly not the class of the SEC. Two monstrous losses later, the Tigers are reeling, falling all the way back to the No. 16 ranking.
Auburn may have taken a hit in the polls, but that doesn’t make Bruce Pearl’s team a bad team. Their two defeats are still less than most of the country has at this point in the season. They’ll recover from this adversity and still be around at least the 4-seed line come March.
Losing by a combined 41 points in two games last week is a blow, but Auburn does have the comfort of returning home for Wednesday’s contest with the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Tigers haven’t lost in Auburn Arena all season and last endured defeat at home on February 13, 2019.
Auburn’s biggest issue in their 22-point loss to Florida was the team’s shooting. They shot a horrendous 25.5 percent from the field, including 17.4 percent from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Gators shot lights out, making over half of their shots and almost half of their three-point attempts.
South Carolina, on the other hand, has been one of the SEC’s toughest teams to get a read on. The Gamecocks have beaten Virginia on the road and Kentucky at home. But they’ve also lost at home to Boston University and Stetson. Stetson! The Hatters hadn’t even beaten an SEC team since 2004!
Regardless, South Carolina enters Wednesday evening trending in the opposite direction of Auburn. The Gamecocks upset Kentucky, then soundly beat Texas A&M on the road over the weekend, aided by a great 16-of-30 performance from three. In fact, they had a better shooting percentage from three than two.
Even with their stellar play of late, the Gamecocks are still a very flawed team. They aren’t particularly adept at scoring the ball, averaging a measly 69.9 points per game. Sophomore guard A.J. Lawson is following his strong play from freshman year with a season that’s almost identical statistically. He’s the team’s best player, but at just 13.8 points per game, not yet a star.
South Carolina does have a recent track record of success against the Tigers. Auburn has lost four of the last five regular-season contests between the teams (though Auburn did defeat South Carolina on the way to the SEC Tournament title last year). In each of those four losses, Auburn surrendered at least 80 points.
Expect Pearl to coach his team to clamp down and turn around the team’s struggles after two embarrassing defeats last week.
Prediction: Auburn 75, South Carolina 61