Bruce Pearl Previews Florida

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    Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl

    Opening statement…
    “This will be our third game in six days. From a preparation standpoint, it’s been a quick turnaround. Fortunately, we’ve been at home during this stretch. I think our last two games have been two of our better efforts and two of our better defensive efforts. I think it was reflective in how we played and how effective we were. There was much more joy in the game in how we were getting stops, getting run-outs and playing how we like to play. It’s about matchups. The Auburn and Florida matchup has been difficult for Auburn, period. It’s been difficult for me. We haven’t beaten Florida in here since 1999. They’ve won 21 out of the last 22 matchups. In fact, the one time that Auburn did beat Florida was the SEC Tournament when Jeff Lebo upset Billy Donovan and that Florida team. My Tennessee team played that Auburn team in the semifinals that year. That was probably the last time Auburn beat Florida. They’re one of the better defensive teams in the league. They hold the score down with a combination of their patience and their switching defense. They’ll play 1-3-1. They’ll press a little bit. Then in their man-to-man, they’ll switch one through four, sometimes one through five. That’s also the reason why their three-point goal percentage defense is so good. They guard the three-ball better than anybody because they aren’t afraid to switch out and put length on the perimeter. They’re pretty packed in and make it pretty difficult for you to take advantage of post-ups on the inside. Some of the things they do really well – they turn you over and then they don’t turn it over. That’s a problem for us. Because when we get turned over, we get beat. We need them to turn it over to beat them. It will be a double-edged sword. We need the three-ball, and they guard it better than anyone in the league. Those are three things, from an analytical standpoint, that we’ll need to overcome to be able to beat Florida. Our guys will be prepared for that.”

    On the defensive improvements the last two games…
    “When we had given up 80 points a game for four SEC games in a row and knowing that that’s just not going to translate to us winning, there was greater effort, energy and focus. When you’re built the way that we’re built – smaller at guard – we don’t have the luxury of switching the way other teams do. Being smaller at guard gives us a quicker advantage that we take advantage of. We just can’t switch out of convenience sake. I just think the urgency that we played with – the kids always play hard – but there’s a different level of playing hard. Can it continue against Florida? We’ll see.”

    On if the team was switching more against Alabama…
    “We did allow for a little bit more switching just out of necessity. We tried to give the kids more freedom defensively to react to whatever Alabama was doing. We might have to do the same thing. Mismatches are a hard thing to take advantage of. Florida is a good example of that. I’ve seen them in transition – a point guard with their center. We did switch a little bit more against Alabama.”

    On if there will be confidence switching moving forward or if it was just against Alabama…
    “We would have confidence in it because at the end of the day you have to put a body on a guy, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big body or a little body. Sometimes offenses are designed to take advantages of disadvantages. Therefore, we can’t worry too much if we don’t have the matchups.”

    On what the team did to have more turnovers forced in the last two games…
    “It may have been a function on the games being at home and those teams being on the road not handling the ball as well. I think that Missouri is one of the teams that leads the league in turnovers, so that was natural. There have been times where Alabama, in certain games, where they turn the ball over a lot. Overall, it’s not a big number. I think it’s more about the matchup sometimes more than it’s about us. We probably won’t be able to rely on turning over Florida. They’ll play four guards. [Jalen] Hudson right now – who played at the three spot last year – is playing at the four spot a lot now. They’re a little undersized at times. As a result, they’re going to be built a little more like us playing four guards. I still look at Chuma [Okeke] or Danjel [Purifoy] at that fourth guard category. I think it’s about the opponent.”

    On the common threat that Florida has…
    “I would say that Florida plays a little differently than a lot of teams in the sense that they’ll play a little one-through-one. They’ll play a little 1-2-2. They run that switching man-to-man. Those are three things that you don’t see every night. Therefore, it could keep people a little off-balance. I think KeVaughn Allen is an ‘en fuego’ guy. He made some shots at the end of the game last year to beat us. He’s capable. He is as dangerous out there for them as Bryce Brown is for us. Getting [Kevarrius] Hayes back as a veteran inside player. They did play Tennessee and Kentucky at home. Florida is 2-1 on the road in the league. They’ve beaten Georgia, they’ve beaten Arkansas and they played close against Mississippi State. They’ve played very well on the road. Some teams, when you go on the road – I felt like this was us last year – you concentrate more. Sometimes there’s less pressure to win on the road. You’re at home, you’re playing in front of your friends, your family and sometimes it’s harder. Some teams play better on the road. I don’t think Florida plays any differently this year at home. They’ve always had a great home-court advantage, but I don’t think they play any differently on the road. They’re a great road team. They played a very tough non-conference schedule.”

    On Austin Wiley…
    “Austin [Wiley] practiced yesterday. We did not go very hard yesterday. Again, three games in six days. We will practice again today live and Austin [Wiley] will practice today. How much he practices is to be determined. There is a chance he could play some tomorrow.”

    On Bryce Brown getting better throughout the season…
    “Bryce [Brown] is incredibly patient off the ball, in the sense that sometimes based off of how the defenses are playing him or sometimes how the plays are being called, he doesn’t always get bombarded with touches at the beginning of the game. He just stays right and stays ready. A lot of times, in the second half, is when he lights up. It doesn’t surprise me that in the second half of our season, he’s lighting up. He certainly is the focal point of every scouting report. They’ll do everything they can to make it difficult for him to catch the ball. Then when he does get it, pay a lot of attention to him. I think it just speaks to Bryce [Brown]’s mental makeup that he doesn’t allow either an in-game fewer touches or in-season lesser numbers to affect him. He is truly playing well.”

    On what he plans to do to speed up the game tomorrow knowing Florida will try to slow it down…
    “One of the ways they slow it down is with their defense. If they use a little 1-2-2 and a drop-back man, which is very uncommon to go three-quarter zone drop-back man. What it does is it takes time off the clock. With a team like us, who likes to get it and go in transition – like after a made basket – all of sudden, after a made basket, we get down the floor and Jared Harper gets it and Bryce Brown shoots it and it’s like ‘what happened?’. That doesn’t happen against Florida because of the way they build their defense. That slows the pace down with fewer possessions. The second thing that happens, once you break pressure, do you just take a quick shot and not run your offense? That’s an advantage, as well. I think part of the reason why Florida would play that way is so that they don’t have to guard for long. Kentucky and Tennessee beat them because they had power inside games. Mississippi State did the same and got inside later in the clock. They, physically, were able to do what they needed to do. Florida look a little bit like us. They do well on the offensive glass. They do a good job shooting the three-ball. They do a good job turning you over. They’re a lot like we are. Except sometimes, they do it better than we do it.”

    On having nine [or 10 guys with Austin Wiley] being an advantage for the team…
    “It is, yet we still have some guys who play heavier minutes. I thought J’Von McCormick with four assists and no turnovers was a real spark for us against Alabama. I challenged our bench against Alabama, partly because John Petty comes off the bench, because their bench outscores everybody and outplay everybody. I challenged our bench. I thought Horace [Spencer], J’Von [McCormick] and Danjel [Purifoy], in particular, were effective. Malik [Dunbar] had four rebounds off the bench. We got a good contribution off the bench and it made a difference. Having nine and then 10 guys in the rotation, that does help when it comes to fatigue. If Austin [Wiley] does come back, we’ll rotate 10.”

    @AuburnEinstein

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