Auburn Previews Georgia

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    Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl

    Opening statement…
    “The first two SEC games are against two of the first-year coaches in our league. The match-up — I guess Ole Miss we were familiar because I’ve played Kermit [Davis] before so that didn’t do me a lot of good, but that was the case and having never coached against Tom Crean, it’s really hard. As old and as been around as both of us have been – and also the fact that we were both in Wisconsin together when he was at Marquette I was at UW-Milwaukee – we never played against each other, so I really don’t know how it would unfold, how he would react to certain things we do and how we would react to certain schemes that they do. Even though we’ve had some time to get ready, it’s still a short prep having played at Ole Miss on Wednesday. There’s only so many things that you can do to get ready. I think Tom’s already begun to make an imprint with the Georgia program even from a prospective standpoint. They’re drawing now. There’s a lot of energy. You can see that he took over a good club with some younger, talented players – guys who were pretty highly recruited. They’re benefitting by the way they are being coached and how they’re playing. They’ve played a tough schedule. They’ve lost five game and four of those are absolutely, you know, no-brainer tough places to play. They had Arizona State beat. Arizona State of course beat Kansas. I mean, they had them beat. They were up 18 at one point. They lost to Tennessee. They lost to Clemson. They lost at Temple. And that’s four out of their five losses. And then Georgia State is probably going to win their league. So, they’re tested. Big win against Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. It was a good win for them. I think the thing the thing that jumps out at you is offensive rebounding and blocked shots. They’re really, really long. Their frontline goes 6-9 and [Rayshaun] Hammonds can play three and four. [Nicolas] Claxton is 6-10 and averages three blocks a game. A lot of people think he’s a terrific pro prospect. He’s pretty highly rated. He’s very versatile. And then [Derek] Ogbeide, who was Jared’s teammate at Pebblebrook, is a big guy that we’ve seen for years. You can see now that [Yante] Maten is gone and he’s been crowned, he’s a much better player, much more athletic and much faster and quicker. And obviously, you know what kind of powerful player he is. The storyline is still the same for a lot of our guys. I’ve got a lot of guys on this roster from Georgia and many of them weren’t recruited by Georgia. Jared Harper or Bryce Brown or Malik Dunbar or Anfernee McLemore or a lot of guys that came here because they feel like they were overlooked. We still, I think, have to play with that chip on our shoulder. We have an opportunity, if we can beat Georgia, it’ll be three straight and we haven’t done that since 2000. Again, from a standpoint of trying to make history in one of the longest going rivalries, it would be good. Students are back. The Jungle will be back. We’re excited about the atmosphere, but the atmosphere alone is not going to win us the game. We have to play better.”

    On Coach Crean’s absence and if he has gone through a similar experience…
    “Yeah, I probably have. You know, it can be disruptive. Hayden Fry use to say, ‘The hay’s in the barn. It’s time to eat.’ In the sense that, when I get past this afternoon’s practice we’re pretty much — it is what it is. Chad Dollar is on his staff so Chad will obviously have a pretty good idea of what we did. He was with me a couple of years ago. I’m sorry to hear that about Tom’s mom. I didn’t know that. I know that it’s a very, very close family — his family, the Harbaugh family. The first time I ever met Tom I was an assistant at Iowa in 1986 and he was an assistant at Alma College, a very small school. It was during my time at Iowa, through his work there in Michigan, where I was extremely impressed by him as an assistant coach. He was able to get on with Jud Heathcote and Tom Izzo and began to trek up the path of assistant in the Michigan State program. And so I was very familiar with Tom back in Michigan because I was at Iowa at the time. I’m so sorry to hear that about his mother.”

    On ball movement against Ole Miss…
    “I thought we did play better in the start of the second half. The ball did move better and we were able to run our stuff. In the first half — look, the defense — sometimes the defense is better in front of me like it is in the first half and the defense isn’t as good in the second half away from us. The offense can be better in the second half when it’s sitting there in front of me and it’s not as good when you’re down at the other end. I’ve got to do a better job of communicating with my point guards about the things that I like and what I don’t like, so that when they’re away from me they can run into the offense and we get the stuff run that we want to get run. We need to work harder offensively to not settle for spacing. I talked about slopping through things. Sometimes you can go through the offense, but if you don’t really care about enough to really compete to get in spots on the floor or the timing, the screening, the cutting – things like that – nothing is going to work. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. And I thought, while we putting forth pretty good effort defensively, we’ve been resting on offense. Transition offense has been great and that obviously carried us in that game.”

    On Danjel Purifoy…
    “I think for the first time he demonstrated some frustration after the game. I would still say that even given that, he’s been patient. Here’s the situation – it’s really simple. He’s behind Samir Doughty and Malik Dunbar at the three. He’s behind Chuma Okeke and Horace Spencer at the four. That’s just the situation that he finds himself in. My heart aches for him that when he was with us two years ago, when he went down and injured, he was our best player. And then he’s had to sit out 21 months. There is still a place for him. I’ve done this for a long, long time. He’s going to get his opportunity. He has to stay ready. At the same time, it’s not fair to any of those other four players that I mentioned to elevate Danjel ahead of them, because when it comes to work and preparation and things like that, he hasn’t exceeded their efforts. He’s right there with them and they’ve been here. He just needs to stay patient because he’s going to get his opportunity. I think it’s a great lesson in life. We all want it right away and even sometimes when it gets taken from us, we want it back real quickly. And again, I complement him on his patience, but only if he remains patient. Anybody and everybody’s careers – I sent 14 years as an assistant coach. I spent nine years in division two. I spent four years in Mid-Major. I didn’t get to Tennessee until I was 45. – it took me a long time, but I had to be patient. I had to work and grind. And Danjel is putting the work in. He’s put in the grind, but he’s got to stay patient.”

    On Chuma Okeke…
    “I think the physicality and the toughness to be able to finish. I think, first of all, he was very aggressive defensively. He was very active and really good defensively and so those things go unnoticed. He’s my best help defender. He’s always in the right places. He puts a lot of effort covering up some of our other sins out there. Just offensively, he’s not getting as many touches and when he is he may not be finishing. He struggled from the free-throw line. So obviously, as a younger player, it affects his confidence. You could see it affecting his confidence but that’s just something you just have to play through and you have to work through. I also think that he cares a great deal and he knows we rely on him to be able to deliver. Last year he came off the bench and if Desean [Murray] wasn’t playing great, Chuma was a huge spark plug for us. Now, he’s the starter and Horace [Spencer] provides the spark so there’s more pressure on him to play well.”

    On big guys finishing through contact…
    “There’s going to be contact on both ends and sometimes when you’re on the road you’ve got to play through contact more. You’ve just got to be able to score. Don’t play for the foul, go make the basket. And so Austin, for example, he got to the foul-line eight times. He probably could have gotten more, but he was 0-for-5 as far as field goals. Chuma only had the one and-1. We only had one bucket at that position so we have to get it in there to them, do a better job of getting it to them, and a better job of scoring through contact.”

    On 1999 Auburn Basketball team being honored at the game…
    “We’re honoring the 1998-99 team. And when you sit back and you look at the record, you look at their accomplishments. Obviously, that was the best team in Auburn basketball history coached by Cliff Ellis. They won 29 games. They won by an average of 19 points. They out-rebounded people by nine. They were 14-2 in the SEC. They won the championship. They were as high as one or two in the country. They got to the Sweet 16. It was just a great, great team. You had Scott Pohlman and you had Chris Porter. You had Doc Robinson. You had All-Americans on that team. Great, great players. The opportunity to welcome those guys back is significant. You know, we bought Cliff back because we played them when he was at Coastal Carolina and honoring him for his career while he was here. Just to see this group, in addition to that, they’ll be other lettermen that are back. This is the lettermen’s weekend and I know that playing a team like Georgia, it’s a big rival for a lot of those guys. It is for us. And also, it just means more in the SEC. I think it just means more to your lettermen when your program is getting to be more competitive like ours in the league. It’s great to have those guys back. It’s wonderful that we’re going to be able to honor them. The best team to ever play here at Auburn and I know our fans are really looking forward to it.”

    Bryce Brown, G, Sr.

    On having a chip on his shoulder by not being recruited by Georgia…
    “Definitely. You never forget that just because I’m a native of Georgia. It would’ve been nice of them to recruit me, but that’s in the past and I’m going to focus on tomorrow’s game.”

    On how difficult it is for Danjel Purifoy to come back and not be in same role…
    “Danjel is extremely talented. He knows he’s talented and he can play with us, of course. Back when he first came in, he was a starter. I can definitely see how that can be challenging for him to come back not really be in the rotation right away. It’s about patience. Everybody gets their chance. I’m more than confident that Danjel will get his chance and be very productive on this team. Right now, he’s not very satisfied with his role, but I’m more than confident he’ll be a big factor for us coming up in the next few games.”

    On what team can do for Danjel after not playing…
    “I’ve been in that situation a couple times at Auburn. I just tell him that his time is going to come. A couple years ago, I had an incident off the court and wasn’t playing for a few games. I had to wait until things opened up. It did and I ended up coming back and having a pretty decent year. Just staying with Danjel, going out with him a little more or hit him with a text message just showing you care. As a teammate, that means a lot.”

    On Georgia…
    “They’ll be different than last year. They’re probably a little bigger, which will probably cause some challenges for us a little bit, just because their three is about 6-8. I feel like they have a little bigger guard play, so that could give us a challenge. It could not. We could probably play a little faster against them because of that and get the game speed sped up. I feel like that will catch them off-guard. I still feel like they’re a pretty good team because of how aggressive they are on the glass. That will be a thing for us, keeping them off the glass and forcing them to not use their size over us.”

    On being top-10 in SEC history for 3-pointers made…
    “I really didn’t even envision that, especially since I was a 3-star with people not thinking I could come in and have the role that I have right now. I know I didn’t really think of that. To see guys in my class that were 4-star and 5-star, that just wasn’t a thing that I envisioned. It’s definitely a blessing just to be top-10 ever in the SEC.”

    @AuburnEinstein

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