Auburn hopes returning home against South Carolina on Wednesday night will get things going again following back-to-back road losses that dropped the Tigers from No. 4 to No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 and put them two games behind leader LSU in the Southeastern Conference standings.
The Tigers (15-2, 3-2 SEC) had their 15-game winning streak snapped last week with an 83-64 collapse at Alabama, and then lost 69-47 at Florida on Saturday. In both games, the Tigers shot season lows, following up a 31.7 percent effort against the Crimson Tide with a miserable 25.5 percent performance against the Gators.
"I'm disappointed with our play," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "It's the time of the year when we should be trying to elevate our play, and we're not.
"Obviously, there's a pretty big price on our head being ranked fourth in the country. And so I think we have to respond to the step-up that we saw this week from both Alabama and Florida."
South Carolina's recent play has been going in the opposite direction. The Gamecocks (10-7, 2-2) have won their last two games -- an 81-67 road victory at Texas AM that followed a 81-78 comeback win over Kentucky.
Redshirt freshman guard Jermaine Couisnard came up big in both games. He scored a season-high 26 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer, against Kentucky in his first college start, and then had 17 points against the Aggies.
After missing the conference opener against Florida because of a back injury, Couisnard has averaged 19.7 points his last three outings. His play against the Wildcats and Aggies earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
"He is our toughest guard," Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said. "When I say 'tough,' I don't mean like let's go get in a fight. I mean willing to understand the game plan, to have the courage to go make plays."
Rebounding has been a big factor in the Gamecocks' turnaround. After being outrebounded 42-30 against Florida, they have enjoyed a plus-18 advantage on the boards in the last three games.
"We're becoming a good rebounding team," Martin said. "We weren't that back in November, and we've been subpar from what I like the last two years. We're becoming a lot more physical with our rebounding."
Rebounding was an issue for Auburn in the loss at Florida, where the Gators enjoyed a 44-29 advantage. For the season, the Tigers have a plus-5.5 average margin in rebounding.
Senior guard Samir Doughty also needs to get going again. The Tigers' leading scorer (14.6 ppg.) shot a combined five of 23 overall and two of 9 from long range the last two games.
"This is as competitive as I've seen the SEC," Pearl said. "The teams that keep their locker room are going to finish in the upper division of the league and make the tournament because teams are going to get beat."
--Field Level Media