AUBURN — Auburn had a little chance to reset.
It came at just the right time. The Tigers were off from class Monday during the holiday, and they got together as a team.
They ate breakfast, they watched film and they practiced. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl smiled saying it reminded him of those hard-working days between semesters, when the team is locked in with no class, and is training like the pros.
“It was great,” he said.
It was needed.
Auburn men’s basketball looks to bounce back from a two-game losing streak Wednesday night at home against South Carolina. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. in Auburn Arena. The game is set to be televised on ESPNU.
And Auburn will be trying to regain some of its confidence after last week’s struggles. Auburn is 15-2 overall now and ranked No. 16 after tumbling 12 spots in the latest AP Top 25. South Carolina is 10-7 with a 2-2 SEC record to go opposite Auburn’s 3-2 mark in the league.
South Carolina beat Kentucky this season and poses plenty of problems. But surely, for Auburn, the game is about the Tigers trying to get back to playing winning basketball.
“I thought we had one of our best practices we’ve had all year long yesterday,” Pearl said Tuesday as his team geared up for the game.
Auburn lost at Alabama 83-64 last Wednesday and at Florida 69-47 on Saturday. He said the team has responded well to those struggles. He said, with this group, he wouldn’t have expected anything different.
But now is the time to make things different on the game floor.
“I think the biggest thing that we focused on this week is playing off of two feet, doing a better job of getting guys shots within the framework of the offense,” Pearl said.
“We need more assists. We need more playmaking. We need to get guys more shots. We need to get each other more shots. And of course we need to make shots, but I think we can get better shots by trying to do a better job of playmaking for each other.”
Pearl’s solutions lie there, now after reassessing those two tough losses last week. Auburn bottomed out by finishing with its worst two single-game shooting percentages of this season in those two games, hitting only 31.7-percent of its shots against Alabama and then making just 25.5-percent of its shots against Florida. But Pearl sees better shot opportunities out there.
The team faced a quick turnaround last week between the late game Wednesday and the early game Saturday and barely had time to watch film in between. But Jamal Johnson said that on Monday the team had the chance to look back at film from both games, revisiting the Alabama game too, to try to learn from what happened last week on the road.
Now the team has the chance to put some of those adjustments to good use.
“I mean, we’re good,” Johnson said. “We only lost two games. It’s hard to win on the road, so we’re just taking it one game at a time.
“We all still have confidence in each other and everything. We’re just taking it one game at a time.”
South Carolina upset Kentucky last Wednesday at home. The Gamecocks then turned around and beat Texas A&M on Saturday, and will enter Auburn Arena riding two wins. The Gamecocks beat rival Clemson earlier this season, and they hold claim to a road victory over defending national champion Virginia back in December.
They’ve also lost to Stetson and Northern Iowa.
The team has been up and down but is led by veteran coach Frank Martin, who is 4-3 against Pearl with all those meetings coming in games played between their current teams.
“They’re capable of beating anybody,” Pearl said of South Carolina. “Right now they’re shooting the ball really well from 3. They’re playing faster than what Frank’s teams have played traditionally. And as you know they always play very hard and they play very physical, so it’ll be a good matchup.”
After tonight’s game, Auburn is set to host Iowa State in a non-conference game Saturday at 11 a.m.