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Jan 30, 2024 2:36 am

No. 16 Auburn hopes Vanderbilt is cure to its ills

Auburn won 16 of 17 games before experiencing back-to-back stumbles last week.

The No. 16 Tigers will look to end their two-game skid when they host Vanderbilt in Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday night.

Auburn (16-4, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) was sailing along in impressive fashion before losing two road games — 79-75 at Alabama on Jan. 24 and 64-58 at Mississippi State on Saturday.

“There’s something to be said for beating the people you’re supposed to beat, and we’ve done that,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said after the loss to the Bulldogs. “Not many people are going to come in here and beat Mississippi State. We’d like to think that we had a shot at it, but we didn’t get enough (players to) step up. You have to step up and be able to make plays.”

The Tigers dropped eight spots in the rankings and will try to reverse course against Vanderbilt (5-14, 0-6), which has dropped six straight games. Auburn beat the Commodores 80-65 on Jan. 17 in Nashville when Jaylin Williams scored 21 points on 7-of-7 shooting.

The Tigers have won six of their past seven meetings with the Commodores.

Against Mississippi State, Auburn was outworked on the boards. The Bulldogs held a 45-30 rebounding advantage, with 14 coming on the offensive end.

Pearl acknowledged that it was a big issue for his team.

“I hate to be right sometimes,” Pearl said, “but my concern of where we were with our defensive rebounding — that’s a big part of it.”

Big man Johni Broome scored 14 points for Auburn, with all of them coming in the second half. Broome leads the Tigers in scoring (15.7 points per game), rebounding (8.7) and blocked shots (42). He has scored in double digits in 11 straight games.

Williams (12.1) is the only other Auburn player averaging in double figures.

The Tigers are 10-0 at home as they battle a Vanderbilt squad that is 0-4 in true road games.

Vanderbilt continued its woes with a 75-62 home loss against No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday. The Commodores couldn’t stop Volunteers star Dalton Knecht, who poured in 32 points.

The loss was the 13th in 15 games since Vanderbilt opened the season with three wins in four contests. The only victories in the past two-plus months came against Alabama A&M and Dartmouth.

“It absolutely doesn’t feel good to be where we are,” Commodores coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “But at the same time, we know that it’s part of the big picture and where we need to go.”

Stackhouse is attempting to keep an optimistic view despite his club’s troubles.

“Most guys probably wouldn’t say it, but I really love my team even though they’re 0-6 (in the SEC) because they’re doing the things that we’re asking them to do and they’re getting better,” Stackhouse said. “And I think that’s all you can really ask for. And hopefully we can break through.”

Tyrin Lawrence scored 21 points against Tennessee for his ninth straight double-digit output. He has three 20-point outings during the stretch.

Lawrence ranks second on the Commodores with a 14.3 scoring average. Ezra Manjon averages a team-best 15.1 points per game.

–Field Level Media

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