No. 12 Auburn 90, Alabama 71 Feb. 21, 2018 // Auburn, Ala.

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1 No. 12 Auburn 90, Alabama 71 Feb. 21, 2018 // Auburn, Ala. Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl Opening statement I m not sure if there was a better environment in college basketball tonight. Our fans had to show up and not see Anfernee McLemore or Mustapha Heron out there, and they stayed. We did what we had to do. We had to get off to a good start. We had to hit them in the mouth early. Our zone defense was really effective tonight. I just felt that with seven, we couldn t extend defensively in our man-to-man. Avery [Johnson] was an NBA coach, so he knows how to take advantage of matchups. It s hard to take advantage of matchups against zone. I ve been telling you the only thing that is holding Chuma Okeke back is me. He can play. He really stepped up, so did Davion [Mitchell] in the second half. I understand why Charles Barkley loves Jared Harper. I do, too. I told you he was going to be worth the price of admission, and he s even exceeded my expectations. He took control of the game tonight. Malik Dunbar getting his first start with 14 points and seven rebounds. That s just a tremendous team effort. If we can win this championship, I think it ll be pretty darn historical. On Jared Harper He s improved a lot from last year. I watch tape getting ready for each opponent and the difference between last year is just unbelievable. Between his maturity, his knowledge and his defense - he makes plays defensively. He doesn t get overwhelmed. At Alabama, he didn t play as well and struggled against South Carolina, but we put that game in our rearview mirror really quickly. The coaches did phenomenal with scout. Chad Prewett had the scout tonight. On Chuma Okeke The coaches kept saying to get him the ball, and we were waiting to see the matchups. We were able to decide looking at who they had guys guarding, and we went at certain people. Chuma [Okeke] could do it at the perimeter. He could do it off the pinch post. He did it off the bounce. He was really good in the back-breaking pressure. He s just terrific. He asked me what I wanted him to do, and he s ready to step up now. On Chuma Okeke s impact Jared Harper said Chuma was the most underrated high school player last year. I said that many times. He was overlooked. The biggest compliment I could pay Chuma is this: he s good enough and talented enough to start on most teams. You wouldn t even guess it or know it, but he s here to help and get better. So many freshmen come in and they want balloons, streamers and shots, but with him, no. He s ready to step up, though. On a plus-six rebound margin and more than 10 steals Well, we were active in the zone. The one thing about playing zone is that it puts 10 eyes on the basketball. When you are in man-to-man, sometimes you run around chasing, and you don't see the ball. With that zone, we were able to keep track of it and get in some passing lanes. That was terrific and not turning the ball over against them. Their best offense is transition offense. They fly, and we did a terrific job of limiting them. They still do great in the break. We took care of the ball.

2 On Jared wanting to prove he is one of the best point guards in the country Well, I love his confidence, and I love his game. Against South Carolina and the last time we played Alabama, he wasn't the best point guard on the floor. Tonight, he was. You can see the result. There s a lot of pressure on Jared. He has gotten a lot of burden. Break pressure, make plays, make shots, defend and he was terrific tonight. I do love his confidence. He's got great ability. He was the best player on the floor tonight. On Bryce s poor shooting He missed a lot of open shots. He's not 100 percent, but he is out there playing. He's dangerous. You have to account for him, and you have to run him off the line, so having that weapon is really important for spacing. I thought Malik (Dunbar) did great making some shots, and he got some big rebounds. Mustapha (Heron) is an important part of this team. Next man up - we don't win without Malik. Mustapha did everything he could today. He actually came to film this afternoon thinking maybe, but he's been sick for three days, so I am hoping he is better tomorrow. There is no guarantee. Terrible, terrible stomach virus. On trying to quarantine Mustapha It s not a flu thing. It s not a contagious thing. It s a virus, and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so it s not contagious. On being this shorthanded and beating Alabama It s just special. It s special beyond compare. This team is trying to make history. We have a long way to go, but I can t deny that what we are seeing is rare. This combination of grit and determination, resiliency, family it s all right here. I just know that it s also rubbing off. It s going to rub off on campus. It s going to rub off in the classroom. It s going to rub off with baseball and softball just like the way that the football team rubbed off on us. Enjoy this because it doesn't happen very often. On Charles Barkley saying this is best Auburn team ever given circumstances It s strong words from a legend and a guy that obviously watches a lot of basketball. I am glad he is enjoying it because he has had to put up with a program that has not been as competitive. He wants it to be competitive. He wants to be in studio when our name is called. That means a lot to him. I know he and all the other alums - Marquis Daniels was here. Quantez Robertson was here and several others. This is not a time to celebrate. This is a time to continue to prepare. We have to find a way to go down to Florida. Jared Harper, G, So. On Chuma s performance He did great. When Chuma is playing like that, we are very hard to beat. He is definitely a matchup problem at the four and if he even plays the five. If Chuma and I are in a pick and roll, they re going to have to choose to stay, guard me or guard him. Tonight, they kind of switched it up, but I was able to get Chuma some shots." On aggression on offense I don t know if I was necessarily trying to be aggressive. I was letting my shots come to me. I knew after warmups that I felt like my shot was going good, so if I had the opportunity, I was going to take advantage of it. I really don t look down. I really don t see where I shoot from until after the game. It really feels the same as being up on the 3-point line.

3 On the mentality of the team going into game Just knowing that everyone has to step up and it s just the opportunity for the next man to step up. We always preach to always be ready. Every game, you don t know when you re going to be called, but when you get called on, make sure you re ready. I felt like all of us, as a team, we were ready." On suffering cramps I was cramping a little bit, but having the support of my teammates and with all my teammates being able to do different things, I was able to play more laid back and be able to make some plays." On playing against Alabama s Collin Sexton I just want to come out every game and prove that I am one of the best guards in the country and one of the best guards in the SEC. It doesn t matter who the matchup is. I m just looking forward to every game just to prove to everybody what I m capable of doing." On overcoming Saturday s performance That was probably one of my worst games this past Saturday. I think I had nine turnovers. That s definitely a career-high. I know what I have to do. Sometimes those games are going to happen, but it s what you do after the games. I m glad I was able to come in today and have a better game. On team s intensity I just think it s a chip. I think Mustapha (Heron) in 2016 got gypped for McDonald s All-American. He definitely should have been a McDonald s All-American. I think Chuma got gypped for McDonald s All- American. We ve all faced times when we were underrated, and we just use that chip of being underrated to showcase that we are good players. On Charles Barkley calling him his favorite player It s just great to hear from an Auburn great. He just got his statue outside. He believes in this team like we all believe in this team. That s just great to know. I guess we just use that in our confidence going through the rest of the season. Chuma Okeke, F, Fr. On his second-half stretch I just knew I had to step up with two of our teammates down. I just knew I had to pick it up on the rebounding and the scoring, too. On rebounding emphasis It was a big point. (Coach Pearl) made it a big point. With Anfernee (McLemore) down, we had to step up the rebounding. Everybody has to crash the boards, and I knew I had to step up on the rebounding end, too. On stepping up performance One of our leading scorers was down, Mustapha. One of our leading rebounders was down, Anfernee. I had to come in this game with an aggressive mindset and crash the boards a lot, and I had to do what I had to do to help my team win.

4 On not getting overwhelmed I think I m just adjustable. Whatever (Coach Pearl) needs me to do, I do it. I don t have a problem doing anything. Alabama head coach Avery Johnson Opening Statement... We got off to a slow start tonight. They jumped on us from the first play of the game and set the tone for the rest of the game. We battled back there in the middle to the end of the first half. Even though they went into halftime with a five-point lead, we were right there. Unfortunately, just the second game in a row that we didn t have a great second half. Give them credit. Bruce has done a nice job with his team all year, and unfortunately, we have had back-to-back games where we haven t had really good second halves. Obviously this is another game where we have given up 14 offensive rebounds, and we only had six offensive rebounds, so they were the aggressor. Our guys, they want to win, but it just wasn t our night. Give them a lot of credit. On what happened defensively... When you are answering a defensive question, the easiest thing in the world is to focus on defense. Those guys were right. We maybe missed a rotation or two, or maybe they got inside of our defense, or we fouled too much in the first half, but we didn t make our wide-open shots even when we were trying to make a run or get the lead. We just have to do a better job of taking our wide-open shots with confidence. We had a couple of really good rhythm 3s that we normally make. When we drove to the basket, we didn t make great decisions with the basketball. We didn t have great spacing when we drove to the basket. Then, on top of that, if we turned the ball over, they got out in transition. This is another game where we gave up too many offensive rebounds. When you don t shoot it as well as you shoot it offensively, we aren t getting enough of our misses back. That is why we are not one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country. We are 266th coming into this game for a reason, and that is something we have to try to solve before the end of the year. On Chuma Okeke and Malik Dunbar for Auburn... I just think it is playing with confidence. It is also being ready to play no matter who is in uniform. I told them before the game, they really didn t know whether Collin (Sexton) or Donta (Hall) were going to play in what I am calling game one in Tuscaloosa. I don t know if they had a little bit of a letdown when they started the game off with us, but we told them, Look, if Mustapha Heron doesn t play for them tonight, they are still a really good basketball team. You only need five guys. They came out and played with a lot of energy and the emotion of (Anfernee) McLemore getting injured. Teams are always looking for a rallying point and play with a lot of desperation, and they played more desperate than we did. We are going back home, and we will see if we can get it turned around before our next home game. On Auburn s ability to extend the intensity... A lot of home teams have won at a high percentage this year in the SEC for a reason. I don t know what the stat is, but that crowd gives them a lot of motivation. They have been fighting all year, and they have been fighting an uphill battle. Bruce has done a really nice job with his team in terms of making sure they have an identity. Again, when you have a maestro like little Harper - I don t know if I should call him little, but he has a way of settling down his team and did a nice job tonight.

5 On what he wants to see from his team before the SEC Tournament... I think we have to continue to protect our home court. We seem to be a different team at home, and I know sometimes when you have a lot of young guys those things can happen. Last year, we had a graduate senior and a couple of guys that were seniors and just a little bit of a DNA, a better rebounding team. We were bigger on the perimeter. Now we are a little bit smaller and much more inexperienced. We haven t been able to put it together on the road, but the road games that we have lost, whether it is at Kentucky or at Auburn, give those teams credit. They are having a nice year. On what he says to John Petty after a tough night shooting... Just keep your head up because you are still dealing with an 18 or 19-year-old kid. Really good NBA 3- point shooters, they still miss 55 to 60 percent of their 3s. When you are dealing with a college kid, you just have to encourage him to keep his confidence. He has seemed to shoot it better at home as compared to the road. If the 3s aren t there, we have to do a better job - the entire team - of playing inside the 3-point line and try to get two or three on the ball and make the correct passes. On what he attributes to Donta Hall s lack of production... A part of the problem is that when you are not making outside shots, then teams try to take away your inside game more. They are not as reluctant to rotate and leave Donta. Give them credit for trying to find Donta at all times on the boards. If you are shooting 70 percent from the field, it is probably a good idea to try to find a guy and maybe force some other guys to take some shots. On if his team got caught up in Auburn s shooting... We were caught up a little early in the game. When you are playing in this environment and they get it going, and we are shooting at the other end of the floor, we have to do a better job. Not only our freshmen, but we have some other guys that have played in this building before. That is what I have been saying all year. I know a lot of focus has been on our young guys, but some of our guys that have been in this building and leadership roles, and obviously, I have to do a better job of preparing our team because we didn t look like it when we stepped on the floor tonight. I am happy that we made a comeback in the first half. Then in the second half, we are normally a team that doesn t give up 50 points in a game, let alone a half. It is not always about what you do wrong. You have to give your opponents credit. I know it is hard because of the rivalry, but you have to give them a lot of credit for making shots. On if there is frustration... Even if I was angry, I don t have to show it in this press conference. We have already beaten the number one team in the SEC at home, so it isn t like we got swept. We beat the number one team at home. Isn t the series 1-1? The way I deal with my team on a communication standpoint, I don t have to show that to the world. We will have a video session tomorrow, and we are not going to advertise how I discipline our team or deal with our team. The first person I deal with is myself because I am the coach, and I am the one responsible. I don t think we are the last team that is coming into this building and losing. They are having a pretty good year. They are the number one team in the SEC for a reason. Right now, we are 1-1 in this series, and we have three more games left, two of which are at home. We have to try to get back to our defense and playing the type of game that we are capable of. I think our guys have fought their hearts out all year long, and I am not going to give up on them. Whatever type of communication tools that I use with them, I don t have to show it publicly.

6 Collin Sexton, G, Fr. On the defensive breakdown in the second half In the second half, I felt like we weren t hustling. They were just driving. When we did help, we didn t rotate one more time. That s why they got open 3s, and we weren t boxing out. They were coming over our backs and getting rebounds and and-ones. On having 14 turnovers I felt like we were too careless with the ball. I know in the beginning, I turned the ball over, and that just got them going. I would say that the turnovers started with me, and we had a few bad turnovers that led to transitions 3s. We just have to correct that next game. On playing against his old teammate Jared Harper It was good. It d be better if we would ve won, but I felt like it was a good matchup. Dazon Ingram, G, So. On the defensive breakdown in the second half We made a lot of mistakes defensively. Once they were getting into the lane, they were penetrating, pitching and finding open shooters. They were knocking down wide-open shots. On having 14 turnovers We had some key turnovers in the second half that got them out on the break, and they were able to boost their lead up. We just have to correct that in practice tomorrow.

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