Tide, Tigers both hoping to rebound
AUBURN — The Auburn Tigers have a confidence problem while Alabama has point guard issues.
Both teams will try to overcome their respective afflictions when the Crimson Tide visits the Tigers on Saturday with each of them trying to rebound from losses.
Auburn (10-6, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) has struggled badly to hit from the free throw line and sink outside shots.
“The biggest thing is confidence,” coach Jeff Lebo said. “To get confidence, in my opinion, you’ve got to perform in a game situation. You can’t give somebody confidence.
“They’ve got to get it in a game situation. They’ve got to make something positive happen. They’ve got to make some free throws. They’ve got to make some jump shots. That’s how you get confidence. That’s just something that we’re fighting right now.”
The Tide (11-5, 1-1), which has lost three of the past four meetings, is expected to be without point guard Ron Steele for the second straight game due to a heel injury.
Mark Gottfried’s team didn’t fare all that well without him in a road loss to Mississippi State Wednesday night even though backup Mikhail Torrance had a big game off the bench.
Torrance and Brandon Hollinger are expected to handle point guard duties in Steele’s absence. Torrance scored 20 points off the bench against Mississippi State and likely earned more playing time even without the injury.
“I always tell our players that you have to be ready and when your opportunity comes, you respond,” Gottfried said. “I thought he did well. He slowed his game down a little bit and played under control. Obviously he scored some points. He had a very good presence on the floor. Because of that, he obviously earns some more opportunities.”
Both teams have had shooting troubles. The Tigers are the league’s worst free throw shooting team, hitting just 59.2 percent from the line.
That shortcoming cost Auburn dearly in Wednesday’s 68-65 loss to the Gators. The Tigers made just 10-of-21 free throw attempts and guard Quantez Robertson was 0-for-6.
Lebo has a pet phrase for what’s plaguing Auburn’s shooters: “The Green Man.”
“It’s just very frustrating. It’s hard to watch,” he said. “It’s just a difficult thing that you’ve just got to get through. I call it the ‘Green Man.’ The Green Man comes out and gets in your head. Sometimes you’ve got to have something else in your head to counterbalance the Green Man, and you’ve got to get him out of there.
“We’ve got the Green Man in there right now.”
Whatever the cause, the Tigers are also among the SEC’s bottom three in field goal percentage (43.4) and 3-point percentage (30.9).
At least they’re topping Alabama’s league-low success rate from 3-point range, 29.7 percent. That number will hardly be helped by Steele’s absence.
“He’s their best outside shooter, best foul shooter,” Lebo said. “He’s the leader of their team. He’s like the rock. I think the rest of their guys feel a lot more comfortable when he’s out on the floor. Obviously not having him will make them a little bit more of a different team.”