Bruce Pearl & J’Von McCormick Preview Mississippi College

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Head Coach Bruce Pearl

Opening statement…

“How this game came about, Mississippi College. Scheduling is vital part of trying to build your resume. When you are playing in these non-exempt tournaments, there was an opportunity to — in addition to playing the three games in Maui — you get an opportunity to play one other game. The last two games we had to games we had to schedule was Washington and then this game. This game, all we were able to find were really, really high RPI Division-1s, teams in the 300s. That just completely destroys your own RPI, your own formula. So sometimes, and you see it across the country, you’re better off playing a Division-II team that does not figure into your RPI. It won’t count toward our NCAA tournament resume, unless you lose the game. If you lose the game, it’ll count against you. If you win the game, it will not count for you. But, a win over a very high RPI Division-I team hurts you. That’s the reason why we were scheduling this Division-II opponent. They’ll score. They’ve got four guys in double figures that average 90 points a game. But, obviously, they’ll be undersized. It’ll be an opportunity to continue to try to grow and execute and learn. I had my concerns in the Washington game, simply because it was going to be Samir Doughty’s second contest. It was going to be Austin Wiley’s first contest. That gave me seven other scholarship players that had played some. I thought the guys obviously did a really good job. Great crowd on Friday night, a sellout crowd. Fantastic participation by the students. Great doubleheader with the women. And congratulations to our women, by the way, who had a fantastic road win at New Mexico and now continue to advance into the NIT. That’s awesome. Those girls travel. They work so hard. I think they’ve got a chance to be really good, too. So it was a great environment. One of our problems is we’ve sold out of season tickets. So I think there’s this misnomer you can’t possibly buy a ticket to an Auburn basketball game. That’s just not true. There are tickets on sale tomorrow. We’ve got a wonderful program where our ticket holders — and we encourage them to give their hard tickets away — but if they don’t use their tickets, they can go online on their own account and make those tickets available to Auburn. What we end up doing is we end up giving most of those away. Sometimes we give it to military. Sometimes we give it to charity. If we can ever get this system ramped up, we can actually resell those tickets, especially the premium seats, to give other fans that experience. Have them come to a game. Build our fan base. The people who come to a couple games here will want to come to more. They’re going to want to travel. They’ll want to come to the tournaments with us, so on and so forth. So we’ve got to get the word out. Use your ticket, and if you can’t use your tickets, physically give them to somebody. If you don’t physically give them to somebody, go online and give them back to us so that we can then give them away or resell them. So tomorrow is a great opportunity to come see this team play. I encourage our fans to come out.”

On how Austin Wiley performed in his first game…
“I think he responded well. He only played 13 minutes. I had him on limited minutes. There were three plays that he had in that game and all of them were highlights. He had a highlight dunk; he had a highlight pass to Chuma [Okeke] for a dunk; his first basket was a really nice right-hand jump hook that may us all feel like Auburn’s got an inside presence again. That really positive. He had a couple fouls. He had a couple defensive situations where he wasn’t as impactful as he can be and I think that was due to rust. [Wednesday] is another good opportunity for him to be dominant.”

On importance of having another game before going to Maui…
“It’s very important to have another experience. It’s really important for [Austin] to have another experience. The teams that we’re going to be playing in Maui, it’s almost like an Elite Eight as opposed to the Maui Invitational. You could make an argument that six or seven of these teams, or four or five of these teams could be in the Elite Eight. We definitely need the contest.”

On Chuma Okeke’s health…
“Chuma is good. He got knicked up in practice a little bit, little bit of a hip flexor, but he’s fine. And congrats to Chuma for being the SEC Player of the Week. He is just a very productive player, inside-out, offensively and defensively. He continues to get comfortable in a more dominating role. He just doesn’t force anything. I also think that they’ll be games when – because of his basketball IQ – if someone starts to focus on him and tries to take him away, he won’t force the issue. He won’t feel like he’s got to do what he did every night, which is smart.”

On importance of other guys stepping up instead of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper…
“There was some talk about Jared having an off night [against Washington] – no disrespect there – but he had an off night making 2-point baskets. He shot the 3 well. He handled the ball well. He got us in all of our offensive sets and he played great defense. I actually thought Jared had a really good night. Jared just missed some shots that might’ve normally made. I thought Bryce had a good night. I thought he was very effective defensively. He didn’t knock the 3-ball down with the same percentage, but he had some really good looks. He could’ve had some pretty big numbers, which he will. Both of their shooting percentages were down, so yes it’s good to be able to win when you have other guys out there and more balance. I think the other thing was that we have pretty good passers on the floor. Samir Doughty is a really good passer. He’s not a ball stopper. He’s a ball mover. He makes other guys better. So, now you’ve got Jared out there, Chuma out there, Samir out there, Bryce is a good decision maker, you know – dimensions. One of the things that I was concerned about earlier in the year – and still am – was going to be our assist-to-turnover ratio. One of the reasons we have those guys on the floor is because they have good assist-to-turnover ratios. Some of the guys that may not be on the floor as much aren’t because they don’t.”

On not overlooking Mississippi College…
“The last 10 minutes of the Washington game was a missed opportunity for us to continue to work. The game was in hand and it was about getting to the finish line. As a result, the play was a little sloppy and not as effective. Sometimes you play the score. We don’t want to do that tomorrow. If it happens, it happens. You want to play hard and unselfishly. You want to continue to learn. That’s the biggest thing – just continue to learn and grow.”

J’Von McCormick, G, Jr.

On his first few games…
“Coming from JUCO, it’s a big difference as far as the game pace. I feel like there’s a lot of good players on each team. In JUCO, there’s only a few guys – maybe two or three – but every game at this level there are five, six or seven good players.”

On his role…
“My major role is probably picking up the ball for 94 feet and bringing energy to the team. Whatever the team needs, I’ll be there for them.”

On being close to Jared Harper…
“Jared is my roommate, so I feel like we bond really well together. He teaches me the plays and the defenses. I feel like we gel really well together.”

On his decision to come to Auburn…
“I knew I could play with the top-level guys. My JUCO was highly ranked and I got a lot of offers, but I felt like if I would have chosen a school where I would have been the main focus, it would have been good for me, but I feel like we wouldn’t have done as well as team as we do here. The team is good and there are individuals that stand out, but I just wanted to come here and show that I’m not scared to be a backup player and I know what I can bring to the table.

On what the coaches told him during his recruitment…
“They told me how many minutes I could get. I would just have to be prepared for those minutes and take advantage of it.”

On the trip to Hawaii…
“This will be my first time [to Hawaii]. We’re looking forward to the trip. We’re mostly focused on each game and showing we can play with those type of teams.”

Now that you’ve read all of that, you can watch it here.