Film Room: How Auburn's defense has been so dominant so far in SEC play
The Tigers have held four of their first five SEC foes to 65 points or fewer. The stats are spectacular. The film from Ole Miss is even better.
PF Jaylin Williams (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Bruce Pearl sat behind the podium inside the media room at Neville Arena and made one thing very clear.
“Our defense is really challenged,” Pearl said. “So, I'm disappointed about it, and we're going to have to continue to work on some things — otherwise, we're not going to get stops.”
It was November 1. Auburn had just wrapped up an exhibition win over AUM. The overmatched Warhawks didn’t shoot a good percentage from the field, but they went to the free-throw line 27 times and scored 66 points.
Two and a half months later, Pearl sat behind the same podium in the same media room and had this to say about his defense:
“They were locked in, and I think they are beginning to enjoy that they have the ability to make it difficult on the opponent.”
Auburn had just held Ole Miss — a team that had scored 103 points just 10 days earlier — to 59 points on the scoreboard. The Tigers were now 5-0 in SEC play, and four of those five opponents had scored less than what AUM had against them on the unofficial first night of the season.
A little more than halfway through the regular season, Pearl’s concerns about his defense seem like very distant memories.
Auburn currently has the nation’s No. 6 defense, per KenPom. The Tigers sit only behind Houston among power-conference teams in 2-point field goal percentage (42.3%) and overall effective field goal percentage (43.0%). Only four power-conference teams have a better 3-point defense (29.1%) than Auburn.
Through the first five games of SEC play, Auburn’s defense leads the conference in efficiency (88.7), effective field goal percentage (40%), 2-point field goal percentage (39.9%), 3-point field goal percentage (26.7%) and turnover rate (22.2%).
“The defense can carry us, if we can continue to do this,” Pearl said. “Our mind is set.”
Auburn’s offense is quite good, currently sitting at No. 9 nationally in KenPom. The Tigers are also No. 12 nationally in points per game at 83.7.
And while Auburn’s offense fluctuates from game to game with who has the biggest performances, everybody is eating on the defensive end of the floor. This is a balanced and brutal defense that can do some of everything, no matter the matchup.
“I feel like it’s a commitment we’ve actually made on the defensive end,” starting small forward Chris Moore said last week. “I feel like we know that we’re a great offensive team, but offense also comes and goes. One thing that we can always count on is our defense, our effort and our energy.”
In this edition of the Film Room, let’s break down a bunch of stats from the SEC slate so far and five possessions from the Ole Miss game that illustrate what makes these Tigers so good on defense.