Observations: Auburn 93, LSU 78
In a week where a whole lot of ranked teams fell victim to the upset bug, the Tigers kept on winning — and winning by double-digits.
SF Chad Baker-Mazara (Zach Bland/Auburn Tigers)
Someone forgot to tell Auburn basketball that ranked teams were losing this week. That, or the Tigers just didn’t listen.
Earlier this week, four of the top five teams in the country lost to unranked opponents in the span of two days. Five other ranked teams were upset in the midweek action.
Then, on Saturday, No. 2 Houston lost again. No. 5 Tennessee needed a big comeback to avoid a second road loss this week. No. 6 Kentucky lost in overtime to a Texas A&M team that Auburn dispatched Tuesday. No. 8 Arizona lost on the road. Two more ranked teams fell to unranked ones.
Meanwhile, No. 16 Auburn just keeps winning — and winning handily. The Texas A&M victory wasn’t easy, but it came by 11 points. A few days later, despite a second-half swoon in which LSU went on a 19-2 run, Auburn still won by 15 points.
The Tigers have now won nine straight games, and all of them have come by double-digits. During a time when other top teams are faltering, Auburn is doing the exact opposite.
But Bruce Pearl isn’t buying it just yet. That’s not his style.
“We’re probably going to continue to move in the rankings, because it’s conference play, and people are going to lose,” Pearl said. “I don’t think we’re the 16th-best team in the country right now. I think there are more than 16 teams better than we are.
“We are better than what they thought, but we’re not as good as they now think we are.”
Even if that’s true, what Auburn is putting out on the floor right now has been more than enough to race up to a top-five spot in several computer ratings systems. The Tigers are going to be ranked even higher than No. 16 after this week’s carnage.
And Auburn is now one of just two SEC teams to win its first three conference games, joining rival Alabama at the top of the conference through the first week of action.
It’s not always perfect, as evidenced by the big LSU run. But Auburn went on two 10-0 runs and a 13-0 run to hold what was as large as a 28-point lead in the second half. On both ends of the floor, the Tigers are showcasing that they can play beautiful team basketball — and they know that things could get even better.
“I feel like every game we’re clicking and connecting even more, on and off the court,” small forward Chad Baker-Mazara said. “So that’s really big. I don’t know, I’m just really excited, because the guys, we all try and make an effort to make sure we’re playing really well on the court, make sure we help each other on defense.”
Maybe Pearl is right and Auburn isn’t the No. 16 team in the country. But someone has to be, and the numbers say the Tigers are playing even better than that.
“They've got an elite team,” LSU head coach Matt McMahon said. “Really no weaknesses.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s 93-78 win over LSU, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and Quote of the Night.
SF Chad Baker-Mazara (Grayson Belanger/Auburn Tigers)
The best offense is a havoc-creating defense
One of the most impressive attributes of Auburn’s current winning streak is the variety of ways in which the Tigers are registering wins.
Saturday marked a new one: Causing a lot of chaos on defense and reaping the benefits on offense. Against the SEC’s top team in forcing turnovers, Auburn won the turnover battle 17-8, with all but one of Tigers’ takeaways being steals.
Auburn’s 16 steals were the most for the program since the Atlanta throttling of Nebraska two seasons ago and the most in an SEC game since a victory over Tennessee in February 2020.
“Coach was emphasizing they’re a better 2-point team than a 3-point team,” said Baker-Mazara, who had six steals by himself and a season-high 19 points. “So every time they drove to the basket, Coach emphasized this whole week to make sure you have a hand in there, because they’re not really going to kick it out that much.”
Auburn turned LSU’s 17 turnovers into 26 points. That was significant, as the orange-and-blue Tigers had 16 more points off of turnovers (26-10) than the purple-and-gold Tigers in a game that was only decided by 15.
“When 16 of those 17 turnovers are steals, that means you're in big trouble in transition,” McMahon said. “They made us pay for those. You're really better off just throwing it up in the stands than having that many steals allowed in the game.”