AUBURN — The term “Auburn fast” can’t just be a term for the gridiron at Jordan-Hare Stadium anymore.
Analytical statistics provided by Ken Pomeroy show of all the team rated in the top 50 in offensive efficiency, only two teams (Auburn and Oklahoma) rate in the top 30 in pace of play.
With Oklahoma, it’s clearly a matter of the Sooners having a point guard in Trae Young that leads the country in scoring and assists, but Auburn is 19th in the nation in tempo based on a philosophy head coach Bruce Pearl has wanted to bring to Tigers since being hired March 18, 2014.
“If the opponent wants to speed you up, you have to oblige them. On the same token, if they want to slow you down, you can't force the issue,” Pearl said Monday afternoon before a practice session. “We're not good enough or big enough or strong enough to dictate tempo. We just have to be able to play at any tempo.”
Despite Pearl’s assessment that Southeastern Conference-leading Auburn (19-2, 7-1 SEC) isn’t good enough to dictate tempo offensively, statistics show not too many solid opponents will be able to handle Pearl’s up-tempo style.
Besides Oklahoma, the only school ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 that ranks in the top 10 percent of the nation in pace is No. 4 Duke (18-3, 6-3 ACC) at No. 33. Ask LSU head coach Will Wade, who came into Auburn Arena trying to press and instigate a faster pace from the start but quickly saw Auburn race out to a 24-6 lead and essentially clinch the 95-70 win with its momentum before the second media timeout of the contest.
“What do you guys want to talk about? We got whipped every way you can get whipped,” Wade said. “Auburn competed a lot harder than we did. That is why Auburn has a great chance to win the league, and there is a little gap between where they are and we are right now.”
However, Auburn would clearly rather play at a pace near the 90-point total than the 60-point total, which the Tigers haven’t been held to through 21 games of the 2017-18 season. Auburn is 12-0 when it hits the 80-point total and nobody in the country has been able to play at its tempo.
In the Tigers’ two losses this season, Temple got 14 less shots but forced Auburn to shoot 8 of 33 from 3-point range to win in the Charleston Classic on Nov. 17. Less than two weeks ago, Alabama got 10 fewer shots and turned it over 19 times but were saved by a 27-point performance from John Petty when he made 8 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Auburn will arrive at The Pavilion in Oxford, Miss., tonight (8, SEC Network) with the objective of getting winning another high-tempo game. With Ole Miss (11-10, 4-4) having three guards (Deandre Burnett, Terence Davis and Breein Tyree) averaging double-figure scoring efforts, the Rebels will likely try to beat Auburn going fast on offense but possibly slow it down with zone on defense.
“Their ability to get out and transition, attack and take advantage of our long shots, long rebounds (and) it was a tough matchup for us. It's been a tough matchup for us," Pearl said.
In the first half of Auburn’s 85-70 win over the Rebels on Jan. 9, Ole Miss’ switching zone defenses held Auburn to just 3 of 17 from 3-point range as the Rebels took a 45-35 lead into the locker room.