Head Coach Bruce Pearl (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Dakota Sumpter)
For the first time since he arrived in 2014-15, Head Coach Bruce Pearl is 2-0. His team earned their second win on Monday night over a tough Georgia State team, 83-65 inside Auburn Arena.
To recap the win, Pearl said that it “was good to be 2-0.” He then credited individual performances from Jared Harper, who Pearl said was fun as he took over the team, and that LaRon Smith had a great night defensively against his former team. He talked about Danjel Purifoy, and his issue with foul trouble early. “People are going to go at him.” Pearl said of Purifoy, “We are not nearly as good of a team offensively without him.” Purifoy had a second half surge, as he scored 19 points and was 8-10 from the free throw line in the win. He scored only two points in the first half.
He feels that the game against Georgia State was the best game that TJ Dunans has played, as he had 6 points and 5 rebounds.
About the opposition, Pearl feels that his team has only seen a limited amount of man-to-man coverage from the first two opponents of the season, North Florida and Georgia State. “We have seen probably two minutes of man-to-man in 80 minutes of basketball. We have seen every zone imaginable.” said Pearl of schemes that the opposition has used so far this season against them.
He ended his opening statement by talking about second half defense. “If you look back historically, we have had a good first half defense. The defense was really good away from us in the second half. Good team effort.”
Another Freshman who contributed in the game was Anfernee McLemore. McLemore was a perfect 2-2 from the free throw line, en route to a 4-point performance that also saw him pick up 5 rebounds. “You can see the level of athleticism. It’s different.”
Auburn had 39 rebounds in the win, with seven players earning 4 or more. He says that it is still one of their weaknesses.
“Jared (Harper) is a very smart player. He picks up on everything really quickly.” That was Pearl’s response when asked about his complex system, and the way that freshman Jared Harper has performed in just a short time as a member of Pearl’s team. His speed and quick adjustments give him more freedom with Pearl. “He has got a mind for spacing, and where everyone is on the floor. When we run a play, he knows why we are running that play, and he understands it.” That aspect of Harper’s style was evident in the game that he knew when to step up and take over the game. “Like I said, you are going to want to buy a ticket to come watch (Harper) play. I do not think that he has disappointed anybody.”