Bruce Pearl Is Confident Auburn Will Find The Positives In The Loss, Which Should Scare Future Opponents

Bruce Pearl had talked about the Tigers taking a loss during the 19-game winning streak and how it might affect his basketball team. He discussed not letting the winning streak get to their head and continuing to play tough throughout the past three months. Well, the Tigers finally took a loss on Tuesday night, 80-76, in front of a sold-out crowd at Arkansas.

Though the Tigers didn’t prevail on Tuesday, they sure made the Hogs work for it to the bitter end. Arkansas battled the Tigers on every possession and finally broke away in the last :12 seconds to seal the upset. Auburn does that each contest: make opponents beat them, not make mistakes and give it away themselves. Take for instance the Missouri game or the Georgia game this past Saturday. Even when each team brought their A-game against the Tigers, they still found a way to win. Though that obviously wasn’t the case on Tuesday night.

But Auburn is now in a different spot. They’ve got a clean slate and a chance to cause even more chaos for opposing teams. But the Tigers have put themselves atop the SEC standings, thanks to the 10-0 start. For Bruce Pearl, putting themselves in first place, with a two-game lead over Kentucky, is key.

“Yeah, a lot of good teams in our league. We know we don’t have much margin for error. We don’t see Kentucky, we don’t see them losing much. We know the position that we’re in. We worked hard to put ourselves in this position.”

You could almost see the loss coming, and it will no doubt turn into a good thing for this team. Sometimes, you need to get a taste of what a loss feels like to truly appreciate all the wins. This was exactly how Wendell Green Jr. was feeling postgame, as he reflected on the loss.

“It’s great, you know. Kind of forgot what it feels like to lose. Ain’t lost in 20 games, I think, something like that. But it’s great. We need this. We’re going to stay together. We feel great about where we’re at.”

Going back to that thought on making a team earn it, well, Walker Kessler made it his mission to cause problems for the Razorbacks all game. He finished with 16 points, 19 rebounds and 7 blocks before fouling out late in the game. It doesn’t get much tougher than that. Teammate Wendell Green Jr. also tacked on 19 points and Jabari Smith added 20. Simply put, this team is going to make you earn it, there are no handouts from Auburn basketball.

“We understand the prize is on our head,” Pearl said postgame. “It’s very difficult on the road, and congratulations to Arkansas. It’s just hard for me to believe we’re the first No. 1 team to come in here since they’ve been in the SEC. We worked really hard to put ourselves in that position. But it was tough.”

Yes, this basketball team is very good and they’re even better when everyone is clicking at the same time, obviously. But when some guys have an off night, the Tigers possess enough talent so that a couple of teammates can carry the load. However, Bruce Pearl would love to see more balance out of this team, compared to the previous two outings.

“We turned the basketball over too much. And for us, it’s always the sum of our parts, when we play well and when we don’t, which has been the last two games. We don’t need one or two or three guys to carry us. And tonight, that’s what it looked like. So we need more balance. And for one reason or another, we didn’t have it.”

Auburn currently maintains a one-game lead over Kentucky atop the SEC standings, as they get set to host Texas A&M on Saturday, followed by games against Vanderbilt, Florida and Ole Miss. This is the perfect opportunity for the Tigers to kickstart another winning streak, as we inch closer to the SEC Tournament in early March.

There’s one thing about this Auburn team that stands out above the rest. They’ve taken on the persona of their coach, which could be a bad thing for the rest of the conference. A positive and upbeat Auburn team is dangerous, as we’ve all witnessed over the last three months. But a pissed off Auburn team might just be a bad thing for opponents, starting with the Aggies this weekend.

It’s almost as though Arkansas awoke the sleeping dragon with the win, and this Auburn team is about to take its talent to the next level, which is weird to say after they just won 19-straight games.

Good luck to the next few teams on Auburn’s schedule. You’ll most likely need it.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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