Auburn enters this afternoon’s game with a record of 24-4, 11-4 in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers are a high-powered offensive team averaging 78.3 points per game which is good for 24th in the country. They get their points through sheer volume of possessions and shot attempts. In the SEC, the Tigers rank 9th, 12th, and 13th respectively in Field Goal Percentage, 3-Point Percentage, and Free Throw Percentage. While their percentages rank very low in the conference, they are able to put up a lot of points because they shoot the second most free throws in the country with over 27 attempts per game and collect the seventh most offensive rebounds at nearly 14 per game. Those opportunities to score with the clock stopped and the extra chances from offensive rebounds allows Auburn to score a bunch of points despite being relatively inefficient from the floor. Sticking with the theme of volume scoring, the Tigers also shoot a lot of 3-pointers despite only making 30% of them on the season. They have made the third most 3’s in the SEC despite shooting the third worst percentage. Coach Bruce Pearl has always been a proponent of shooting transition 3’s and those are the ones that Kentucky will need to try to take away as much as possible. However, in the half-court, the name of the game will be staying between them and the basket without fouling and then finishing the possessions with a defensive rebound. There shouldn’t be any issue getting up for this game as the ‘Cats will be playing in front of a sold out Rupp Arena with a win clinching their 49th regular season SEC title. Let’s dive in and go over the game plan for defeating the Auburn Tigers.
#5 J’von McCormick: 6’0″ 185 lbs, Senior Point Guard
11.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.5 apg
Point Guard. Very quick with the ball. Looking to attack. Better as a driver than a shooter. NO RIGHT HAND DRIVES!!! Give him an extra step or two to guard against the drive. Do not come out past the 3-point line to guard him. Go under the ballscreens when they are set for him. You can help off of him when he doesn’t have it and then closeout short if it is kicked to him. He is a capable 3-point shooter but he is much more dangerous driving it. If he makes a couple that is okay as long as we take away his layups and drives to the rim. Contest the jumpers as he is driving it. Do not foul him on the perimeter. Really looks to push it fast in transition. You have to get all the way back and get turned around to stop the ball. Don’t start back pedaling. Stay between him and the basket! Make him score over you. Bad free throw shooter. Foul if you are beat as he goes to the rim. No And-1s. Good offensive rebounder for his size, averaging 1 per game. Box out! NO LAYUPS!!!
#10 Samir Doughty: 6’4″ 195 lbs, Senior Guard
16.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.6 apg
Long, athletic guard. He will handle it a lot along with #5. Play him as straight up as you can, but error on the side of giving him a step and guarding against the drive. NO RIGHT HAND DRIVES!!! He is a willing and capable 3-point shooter, but he is much better from 2 than from 3. Just be close enough to give a hard contest when he shoots. Start to tighten up a little bit as it is driven towards you so you can be there to contest the obvious catch-and-shoot 3’s. Find him in transition, those are the ones he really wants to shoot. Gets to the free throw line a lot. Was 14/15 from the line on his way to 23 points in our first meeting. Play without fouling as he drives it. Very aggressive. He is a good driver going either way, but he is going to finish everything with his right. Make him drive it left and finish it back into you with his right hand. Be ready to help some when he drives it and make him pick it up. Go under the ballscreens when they are set for him. You can help off of him when he doesn’t have it and closeout a step short to guard against the drive. Do not guard him beyond the 3-point line. Get the ball stopped when he brings it in transition. Stay between him and the basket. NO RIGHT HAND DRIVES!!! NO LAYUPS!!!
#23 Isaac Okoro: 6’6” 225 lbs, Freshman Forward
13.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 apg
Strong, athletic wing with great length. More of a driver than a shooter. NO RIGHT HAND DRIVES!!! Significantly better from 2 than 3 and really wants to drive it. Closeout short! Very physical driver. You have to be ready for him to bring it at you. Closeout short to stay between him and the basket. Be in help off of him when he doesn’t have it and then closeout short when it gets kicked to him to guard against the right hand drive. They like to isolate him around the elbows as well. Force him left! When he drives it left he is going to want to spin back to his right. He will ballscreen some and pop into space to drive it. We can switch when he ballscreens if we need to, but we should be hoping under anyway so we can keep our matchups. Be ready to be physical as he drives it when you get switched on to him. Take away his right hand. Excellent offensive rebounder! Averaging 2 offensive rebounds per game. BOX OUT!!! If he makes a couple of 3’s it is okay. We want to take away the drive and make him shoot from outside. NO LAYUPS!!!
#3 Danjel Purifoy: 6’7″ 230 lbs, Senior Forward
8.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Strong stretch-4. Pick-and-pop 4-man. SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! 127 of 196 shots have been 3’s. Wants to shoot catch-and-shoot 3’s. Have to be there to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. Tighten up to him as the ball is driven towards you. Once you take the 3 away he will look to drive it right some. Be tight on him. No help off of him when he doesn’t have it. He is always playing with other non-shooters so help off of them. Make him put it on the floor when you closeout to him. Pressure him and make him drive it left. Switch if we need to when he sets ballscreens to take away the pick-and-pop 3’s, but we should be hoping under the ballscreens anyway which will maintain our matchups. Good offensive rebounder. Have to box him out when the shot goes up! NO 3’s!!! Went 3/6 in our last game, that can’t happen again.
#50 Austin Wiley: 6’11” 260 lbs, Senior Center
10.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg
Strong, physical post. Really posts up hard. Runs the floor and will look to blow you up in transition or secondary at the front of the rim. Looking for opportunities to duck you in when the ball is in the half-court. Have to be physical with him and do your work early to try and keep him from getting a deep post catch. Wants to score everything at the rim. Right hand, left shoulder in the post. No drop steps. Take away the drop step dunks and then be physical on his left shoulder. Looking to ballscreen and roll. Just keep giving ground and get back to him at the rim. Again, we should be going under the ballscreens which will keep us from having to hedge with our big man off of Wiley. Do not help up off of him at the rim. We should be able to stay between them and the basket anyway since we are staying inside the 3-point line. Would rather post up than catch it on the roll unless it is an easy dunk. Excellent offensive rebounder. Averaging 3.6 offensive rebounds a game. BOX OUT!!!
#24 Anfernee McLemore: 6’7″ 220 lbs, Senior Forward
7.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Lefty. SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! 85 of 155 shots have been 3’s. Have to be there to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. If he isn’t dribbling you aren’t close enough. Be tight on him. No help off of him when he doesn’t have it. Tighten up to him as the ball is driven towards you. Switch if we need to when he sets the ballscreens to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s, but we should be going under and maintaining the matchups anyway. Be ready to switch when he is setting the screen-the-screener. Have to be there to take away his catch-and-shoot 3’s. He will play as their backup 5-man when Wiley is out. Left hand, right shoulder if he gets it around the basket. Box him out! Good offensive rebounder. NO 3’s!!!
#35 Devan Cambridge: 6’6″ 190 lbs, Freshman Guard
4.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! 73 of 108 shots have been 3’s. Have to be tight on him to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. Tighten up to him as the ball is driven towards you. Will drive it right some, but really wants to catch-and-shoot. No help off of him when he doesn’t have it. Chase him off downscreens and get over the flares. Find him in transition. NO 3’s!!!
#1 Jamal Johnson: 6’4″ 195 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore Guard
SHOOTER!!! NO 3’s!!! 67 of 79 shots have been 3’s. Have to be tight on him to take away the catch-and-shoot 3’s. If he isn’t dribbling then you aren’t close enough. Shooting a better percentage from 3 than 2. Absolutely no help off of him. Chase him off downscreens. Get over the flares. Find him in transition. Be ready to communicate the switch when he long runs into the slip ballscreen. When you are guarding him you just need to worry about taking away his 3-point attempts. NO 3’s!!!
#22 Allen Flanigan: 6’5″ 200 lbs, Freshman Guard
3.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Lefty. Backup guard. Much better from 2 than 3. Closeout short to stay between him and the basket. No left hand drives. Just throw a hand up to contest if he shoots from the perimeter. Very bad free throw shooter. Foul if you are beat. No And-1’s. Box out.
#2 Jaylin Williams: 6’7″ 230 lbs, Freshman Forward
2.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg
Lefty. Backup forward. Strong. Wants to score at the rim. Left hand, right shoulder in the post. Make him score with you between him and the basket. Will ballscreen and roll. Box him out.
Auburn will push the tempo and scores their 78+ points per game through sheer volume of shot attempts. They really attack the basket off the dribble in the half-court and get to the foul line over 27 times per game thanks to their aggressive nature. The Tigers are second in the country in free throw attempts and shot 33/44 from the charity stripe in our first meeting down in Auburn Arena. Across the board, Auburn has struggled with efficiency on the offensive end with shooting splits of 43.3%/30.1%/67.2%. Despite their generally below-average shooting, the Tigers are third in the SEC in points per game, third in 3-pointers made per game, and first in free throws made per game. Also, Auburn leads the conference in offensive rebounding with 13.8 per game. Coach Bruce Pearl always pushes his guys to take open 3’s in transition and those are the ones they are most likely to make. Once we settle into our half-court defense we have to play without fouling and limit them to one shot per trip. They run some quick-hitters out of Secondary and do a lot of 4-around-1 dribble drive stuff in the half-court. However, this is a game where personnel is the most important. We have to take away right hand drives from #5, #10, and #23, and then take away 3’s from #3, #24, #35, and #1. Here are some clips of what we can expect to see from the high-powered Auburn offense.
Diagonal Backscreen/Downscreen: In their last few games, Auburn has run more half-court sets as opposed to just playing out of Secondary. They still run a lot of backscreen/downscreen action from Secondary as well, but here is a look from our last meeting of them in the half-court. The ball gets reversed as Doughty sets a diagonal for Okoro. If they can’t go inside to Okoro, they will downscreen for the screener which here turns into a dribble handoff. Maxey gets clipped on the screen which forces E.J. to drop into the paint to stop Wiley on the roll. He does a GREAT job here of walling up and getting vertical as Wiley tries to score back into him on his right hand.
Secondary Diagonal Backscreen: Here is a look at their backscreen/downscreen action from Secondary. The point guard dribbles to a wing as the trailer circles underneath and gets the ball reversal. Wiley steps up to set a diagonal backscreen for Doughty on the wing. Doughty is able to get it off the backscreen and scores inside. Maxey was denying him high on the wing (not what we want to do) which led to him being able to get open on the backscreen.
Secondary Diagonal Backscreen/Downscreen: Here is one more look at them running their backscreen/downscreen from more of a Secondary alignment. They really like to run this when McLemore is in at the “5” because he can be dangerous off of the downscreen. He steps up to set the diagonal on the wing and then receives a downscreen. McLemore wants to shoot catch-and-shoot 3’s like this one. If we have to help on the backscreen as much as Ole Miss did here, then we need to switch so we can stay tight on McLemore.
Slip Side Ballscreen: This is 100% their favorite action to get to. When the come to ballscreen on the wings they almost exclusively do this slip/run by/illegal screen type action. You can see McLemore never stops to set the screen, but just tries to run off the butt of Quickley as Doughty drives it right. The main thing we could have done here was just to not get so high while guarding Doughty in the first place. I think we need to stay disciplined in not letting our feet come outside the 3-point line. Once he gets going downhill like this he is impossible to stop.
Slip Ballscreen: They also like to set a little downscreen for a guard or wing to long-run into a ballscreen which they will, again, slip. South Carolina switches it but it gets communicated a little too late leaving #1 Johnson open for a 3. We have to know that anytime a big man (Wiley or McLemore) is coming from the top of the key to the wing, or when a guard/wing is coming from across the court like in this clip, they are wanting to slip it almost every time. The best way to guard it is to just know it is coming and stay home (this also should get us an illegal screen call or two). However, if you see it coming and can communicate an early switch that is fine too.
Elbow Iso: A play in the half-court they have started calling a lot lately is this Elbow Isolation for #23 Okoro. It begins just like slip ballscreen above where they set the little downscreen for a guard, but instead of running into the ballscreen they curl the screen to isolate Okoro (the screener) at the elbow. He is gong to want to drive it right, or go left so he can spin back right. We really need to try and force him left and be ready to help as he drives it.
They are a half-court man-to-man team. Coach Pearl doesn’t really teach anything out of the ordinary on this end of the floor. They play hard and will give a little bit of extra on-ball pressure than some teams, but for the most part it is just solid man-to-man.
Keys to the Game
- PLAY WITHOUT FOULING!!! We committed 29 fouls in the first game, allowing them to shoot 44 free throws. If that happens again, we will lose. The goal is for them to shoot less than 25 free throws.
- REBOUND!!! They are going to miss shots. We held them to 35.3% FG shooting, 26.1% from 3, in our loss down there. We lost because of the free throws and giving up 17 offensive rebounds. The goal is to allow fewer than 12 offensive rebounds.
- NO RIGHT HAND DRIVES!!! Their three leading scorers, #10 Doughty, #23 Okoro, and #5 McCormick, are all better drivers than shooters. We want to give them a step, stay inside the 3-point line, go under the ballscreens, and stay between them and the basket. Take away the right hand!
- SCORE!!! The easiest way to set our defense and keep them out of transition is to make them take the ball out-of-bounds. Again, they are a volume scoring team and will find a way to get buckets. We have to get to at least 75 points. Play fast, attack the basket, and be ready to catch-and-shoot from 3.