Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl Explains Tigers' First Loss of Season

Cary L. Clark

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Following Alabama’s 83-64 upset of No. 4 Auburn in Coleman Coliseum, Tigers coach Bruce Pearl met the media and had plenty to say about his team’s first loss of the 2019-20 season. 

The defeat ended a two-game winning streak over Alabama for the Tigers, but was also the program's first since the Final Four last season. 

"First of all, I'm very proud of my team for winning our first 15 games," Pearl said. "I think you could see why I've been saying we are a good team. And I've yet to say we are a very good team."

Freshman Isaac Okoro led Auburn with 13 points, 12 of which came in the final 7:14 of the first half. Okoro scored five straight points in the last minute, hitting a 3 and then turning a steal into a transition dunk to the cut the Alabama lead to 36-27 at the intermission.

The freshman has scored in double figures in 12 of Auburn's 16 games this season. He also added four rebounds, three steals and two blocks on the night.

“(Alabama) is playing very well. I have great respect for what they’re doing. I recruited a lot of their guys.

“To be able to beat a good team like Alabama on the road you’ve got to play great. We didn’t come close. We were really sloppy offensively with spacing, timing and feel. We don’t shoot it well enough offensively to make up with what we don’t execute and it caught up to us tonight.

“I’m really proud of Kira (Lewis Jr.) Isaac (Okoro) and Samir (Doughty) did a good job defensively but all our other guards struggled. I’m happy for Herb Jones. He played a great floor game.

“Give Kira, John Petty and ‘Beetle’ Bolden credit. They did a good job defending our guards. They do a great job of taking charges.

‘We struggled to execute. We didn’t have a lot of complicated things in (the game plan), and we didn’t execute what we had in.

“The (Auburn) seniors were 1-for-15 in the first half. That’s a real battle. We did a good job coming back in the second half.”

Added senior center Austin Wiley: “It was a tough environment. The Alabama fans, you have to give them credit. They came out and supported their team.

“This is a tough one. We didn’t do what we were supposed to dol. I will take the blame for that. I didn’t get my guys ready to play.

“It was very physical. Coach (Nate) Oats got his guys ready. I expect that from every team. That was probably in the scout (report).

“We can learn a lot (from the loss). We’ve got to keep our head and our composure.

“We didn’t finish good at all tonight. They contested shots at the rim.”

Wiley and Jamal Johnson both scored 10 points for the Tigers. Wiley pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds to notch his seventh double-double of the season, tying him for second in the SEC. 

For Johnson, it was his third game in double figures this season. The sophomore came off the bench to go 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.