The No. 11 Auburn men's basketball team will try to keep its perch atop the SEC standings when it hits to road for two tough matchups against Missouri and Georgia.
Sweeping the Tigers' last four games against Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU and Alabama seemed like a tall order for a team that struggled early in SEC play. But the Tigers did just that, capping off the run with a thrilling 95-91 overtime win over the Tide Wednesday night.
The Tigers' other wins during that streak came in dramatic fashion, too, with the last two matchups resulting in overtime wins, 79-76 over Arkansas and 91-90 over LSU.
The stretch of games has also seen the resurgence of senior guard Samir Doughty, who has scored more than 23 points in each of the Tigers' last three games. He also caught fire in the second-half comeback against the Tigers.
"We just take it possessions at a time and four-minute segments at a time," said Doughty about the Tigers' confidence when trailing. "Whenever we're down, we just try to win each four-minute segment by a few points, and we knew we would be capable of coming back and cutting certain leads. We have a veteran group and we're going to fight until the end until the whistle blows. We knew if we could make a few shots, we can be right back into the game so we weren't panicking whatsoever."
The Tigers don't make much sense statistically, said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who also gave the team credit for how hard they're fighting to win close games.
"The problem is we’re in all these close games because we’re just not that much better than our opponents," he said. "The reason why I so often say we’ve been good, and asking if we are very good yet, or where are we, is because of times like last week when we talked about it being a moving week. We’re either going to move ourselves into a position to contend for the conference championship or not. We did. We moved in that position."
Pearl said the Tigers still have room for improvement, including on defense, where he doesn't want to see so many direct-line drives to the basket.
"I think we are fourth in the league in giving up the number of 3-pointers, so we’ve got a lot of work to do there," he said. "Probably with offensive efficiency, I would like to do a better job on the break since we are such a good rebounding team so we should have a better percentage of what we can do on the break with advance passing the ball a little bit, and then when the break is not there, run better offense and get some better looks, mix up our inside-outside stuff."
The Tigers will face off against Missouri at 5 p.m. Saturday and against Georgia at 6 p.m. next Wednesday. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.