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Auburn Talks Ahead of Kentucky - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Auburn Talks Ahead of Kentucky

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Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl

Opening statement…

“Auburn drops to 10. I’ve been working so hard to maybe wake up in the morning and read the front page that says ‘Auburn drops to 10’. That’s great. I’m really proud of our guys for Saturday. A lot of it is because I have a lot of respect for their program and their talent. They’re on the bubble when we go over there. We have eight guys, and seven when Desean Murray gets a full body cramp in the second half. Jared [Harper] was brilliant. Mustapha [Heron] has that next-level ability, and he’s doing it on both ends. Davion Mitchell’s defense was just incredible. Georgia matters. That game matters to us because it’s a rival. You don’t get to celebrate it really long, other than a really enjoyable bus ride home, and then you have to go on to Kentucky. I haven’t read all the particulars about them, other than them having six McDonald’s All-Americans, and they’ve got incredible things. A couple of things that are misunderstood about Kentucky is they’re a big target and they’re easy to criticize because they are the chosen, but they play hard. Kentucky kids play hard. When I say that, I mean they play harder than some of the other teams in our league. They are really long, and we’ve been bothered by teams like Texas A&M and Alabama who do a great job with using their length. We’ll have those kind of challenges. How much do you extend and make Kentucky better? At the same time, if we don’t extend and let them get close to the basket, they’re going to be really good. I’m really impressed with [Shai] Gilgeous-Alexander. In my mind with going through the league, Alexander and Jared are the top guards in the league. He’s [Gilgeous-Alexander] is really good. He’s really good in the ball screen, play making outside of the ball screen and it’s just going to be a tough cover for us.”

On Bryce Brown’s injury update…

“I think Bryce Brown is going to try to go today, but no contact. He’s shooting a little bit, he’s moving a little bit, so he has a better chance to play on Wednesday than he did on Saturday.”

On how he’ll decide if Bryce Brown will play on Wednesday…

“If he can have contact tomorrow, if he can hit tomorrow, he will play Wednesday. For me, the dunking wouldn’t be the issue. It would be defensively like if he gets it thrown back again, how he’ll feel. He has to be able to play.”

On if he was close to playing this past Saturday…

“He wasn’t. It was really swollen and sore. He wasn’t able to function as far as mobility. He has the mobility now, but we’ll see if he has the stability.”

On his initial reaction to the bracket announcement…

“Well, Steven [Pearl] and I were upstairs working on Kentucky last night, and we were surprised to see us be the fifth team called. There wasn’t any emotion like there will be on Selection Sunday. Even the sixth year in a row at Tennessee or the ninth year in a row at Southern Indiana, when you hear your name called, it is very special. We were just a little surprised to hear it called. I think what it is is first of all 10 wins away from home is significant. Some of the decisions we’ve made have been hard decisions. Those decisions got rewarded because we won those games. I think you’ll start to see in scheduling, and I’ve always scheduled tough, that teams will start playing people on the road because it’s the key to getting that seed.”

On the importance of the remainder of the season…

“Our issue is no longer tournament selection. They don’t pay much attention to it anymore. Our issue is the quality of our opponents. At whatever point I said that we had 13 games left and that we could win them all or lose them all, we now have six games left and we can either lose all of them or win all of them. We take them one at a time and truly grind and prepare. I have three scout teams. My assistants will look ahead, but the players and I won’t.”

On if the team has been calm throughout their success this season…

“I think they have. Kentucky is still Kentucky. That game still matters. They had six guys in the McDonald’s All-American Game - Mustapha Heron should’ve been, but he wasn’t. We have to continue to use the motivating factor. Whatever motivation I can find to keep us humble and hungry, but I don’t think we have any problem with being overly confident.”

On Desean Murray’s cramp against Georgia moving forward…

“It’s a little later in the year now. We have to watch his salt intake and hydrating him days before instead of just the day before. I think he’ll be fine the rest of the season, but there definitely will be, from a diet standpoint and a hydration standpoint, some different things. He’ll pay attention to it now that it’s happened a couple of times.”

On Jared Harper and zone defense…

"Zone bothers some teams, but it doesn’t bother others. Zone happened to bother Georgia the last couple of times we’ve played them, but who knows what will bother Kentucky. It’s really nice to have that defense in our back pocket because we’ve gone to it and it’s flat out won us some games. Jared [Harper] is a bit of a rover in the middle of that defense. Like the quarterback, he’s calling out signals. He’s got a great understanding and vision and he does put guys in the right spot.”

On Jared Harper’s assist-to-turnover ratio…

“I think part of it is balance and you want to put the ball in Jared’s hands early and late in the defense. There are other guys that you need to play call for because of what they can do. We try to get it in Jared’s hands as much as we possibly can.”

On Tony Barbee coming to the game…

“I would like to reach out to all of our fans and students in preparation of that [Tony Barbee coming to the game]. I know what it’s like. In coaching, for better or for worse, you give it your heart and soul. You give it everything you have. I think it would only be fitting with Auburn to be classy. He was our basketball coach for four years. He moved his family here and he was a part of this family. I would rather it be us welcoming him and his family back to where they were for four years. There should be nothing else. I would even ask the Jungle and the leadership, and I might just tweet this out, that nothing else would be appropriate. I want great spirit and attitude. I want to get after Kentucky really hard, but that other stuff I would be disappointed with that.”

Jared Harper, G, So.

On Kentucky...

"I wouldn’t say that’s a big difference to us, but they were picked before us to finish in the league, so we’re still hungry as we’ve been before. We’re trying to go into every game and continue to work toward trying to win the SEC."

On the game at Georgia...

"We just played together and played defense and rebounded. Just knowing going into that game how well Georgia rebounds the ball and we had to defend them on the inside, so it was good that we did those things and were able to win."

On handling the pressure of big games...

"We just go into every game the same - just trying to take every game one game at a time. Our goal is to win the SEC, so we want to put ourselves in the position to do that, so we want to win every game."

On if it's getting harder to ignore outside distractions...

"No, I don't really think so. I think before the season even started we had some other distractions that we went through and we just kind of focused on what we can do on the court and that's how we've been carrying through the whole season."

On Bruce Pearl calling him the quarterback of the team...

"It feels good just knowing that I'm out here being able to make plays for myself and teammates, and now, I'm leading the SEC in assists, so it's just a great accomplishment and I'm just going to keep moving forward."

On the exhibition loss to Barry University...

"I think that was a huge learning experience for us. In that game against Barry, we kind of did some of the things we did last year defensively in the second half, so we looked back at that and we fixed it and we said we weren't going to have the same things that we did last year."

On Bryce Brown...

"He's doing great He's been rehabbing and just putting in a lot of work. He wants to get back on the court bad, so hopefully he'll be back soon."

On the pride he takes in his assist-to-turnover ratio...

"I take a lot of pride just knowing that I want to get my teammates involved, but also take care of it. My teammates trust me with the ball, BP trusts me with the ball, so I just have to make the best decisions."

On the biggest stretch of the season coming up...

"They are good games, so we're definitely looking forward to them. This is what we've been looking forward to the whole season. I think on the selection show they put us as a two-seed and the first two-seed, so we're just looking at that and trying to build on that."

On his reaction to being the highest two-seed on the bracket preview show...

"I guess I was surprised, but I know that we've put in a lot of work to be in that position."

On if being a two-seed on the bracket preview show was validating...

"I guess it was."

On if it was weird not having Bryce on the floor at Georgia...

"Yeah, it was definitely something, as a team, we had to pick up on, but we had a lot of people that contributed in his place."

On if he thinks Davion Mitchell has been off the last few games...

"I wouldn't say it was necessarily anything off, it's just part of being a freshman. I kind of went through it myself just learning the game, just learning how you can help the team, just adjusting. I think he's figured it out now and he's playing with a lot more confidence."

On the wall freshmen normally hit around this time of year...

"There is a lot of work that you put in. Usually around this time in high school basketball, you get into your state tournament and you're just about finishing. But, this is when the season is really getting good right here. So, it's just adjusting to that and being able to push through."

On NCAA Tournament talk...

"Well, my family does talk about it a lot just knowing that we're in a good position. That's always been a dream of mine just watching since I was a little kid and seeing all the games on TV, so just being able to be a part of it would be great."

On if he wants to keep hearing the NCAA Tournament talk…

"I really don't mind hearing it, but it's not going to change my focus because my focus is still to get our team to the NCAA Tournament and potentially win a national championship."

Desean Murray, F, Jr.

On the buzz around the program...

"It's great. We're not used to it. We've been playing well. We've just got to keep our heads focused and we've just got to stay hungry and we've just got to keep coming to play."

On his thoughts on Kentucky coming to town Wednesday night...

"Well, just like every other game, we've got to get this win. It's a big one because we've got goals set in mind to where when the regular season ends we want to win the SEC and then move on to win the NCAA Tournament. We've just got to go into this game like every other game ready to play."

On not getting caught up in the buzz around the team...

"It's not really hard not to get caught up in it. We've got to stay focused. We talk about it all the time. Bruce continually reminds us we've got to keep our level heads. We've got to come ready to play. We're the underdogs and we're not used to [the success]. We've got goals and they projected us 4-14, so you can't forget about that."

On experiencing cramps during the game at Georgia...

"It was pretty bad. I didn't get to get back in the game obviously. I've taken care of it. I've been drinking a lot of fluids. It's real tough sitting there watching my team, but we pulled it out. We played real well. We played great defense. We were without Bryce, we were without me in the second half, it's just next man up. We have a lot of depth.”

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