After laying an egg late Wednesday night in Nashville, the LSU men’s basketball team (17-5, 8-1) has a quick turnaround and hits the road once more to face No. 11 Auburn (20-2, 7-2).
Saturday morning’s game will be for control of the SEC. If LSU wins, it regains its two game lead over Auburn and the field; if Auburn wins, they’ll own head-to-head tiebreakers over both LSU and Kentucky, whom the Plainsmen beat a week ago 75-66.
If this Auburn team was supposed to take a step back from last year’s SEC tournament champion and Final Four team, it hasn’t materialized just yet. Auburn won its first 15 games and was the second to last unbeaten team in the country. Auburn climbed to as high as No. 4 in the AP Top 25 until unexpectedly getting blown out by Alabama January 15. The Tigers dropped a second straight game three days later in Gainesville but has won its last five games.
Auburn, like LSU, has had some close calls lately. The Tigers nearly gave away its game against Iowa State in the Big 12-SEC Challenge, rallied from down 17 points to beat Ole Miss in double overtime, and had to survive another overtime scare from the Razorbacks in Bud Walton Tuesday night.
But all those games had one common denominator: Auburn won. And now Saturday will determine who has control of the SEC as we inch closer to the conclusion of the regular season and begin postseason play.
Auburn and LSU are two of the better offensive teams in the country. LSU averages 80 points a game, and Auburn is right on LSU’s heels averaging 79. LSU allows about 71 points a game, while Auburn gives up 69. Neither team shoots the three-ball very well, both at a 30 percent clip. LSU shoots better at the free throw line but Auburn tends to get to the line on a more frequent basis.
LSU has five guys averaging 10 points or more; Auburn has three—Samir Doughty, Isaac Okoro and New Orleans native J’Von McCormick— while another two, Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy, average 9.7 and 9.6 respectively.
Auburn has only lost two games at home dating back to last season, while LSU had won 12 consecutive road conference games prior to Wednesday’s stunner at Vanderbilt. If LSU can get back to its road warrior status, it can stay atop the SEC; but if the Tigers allow the Vanderbilt game to beat LSU twice, LSU may be in danger of failing to defend its SEC championship.
It’s a basketball brunch morning, LSU-Auburn will tip off at 11 am on ESPN.