By Ken Cross
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has seen so much growth and maturity in this season’s 21-2 start with nine players who are on the same page with each other and, of course, their coach. Guard Bryce Brown has been one of the focal points so far as he continues his torrid pace behind the three-point line and in a leadership role on a team that is as galvanized as any in recent memory.
“I would say that over the last couple of years, we have talked about Bryce being one of our best players, clearly,” commented Pearl, “That said, he didn’t always play that way and we clearly trust him to make wining plays.”
Brown has been so synonymous with that three-ball as he had 78 last season to set the Auburn freshman record. This year, he already has 75 in as fast of an offense as you will see at getting in transition and finding shooting spots. He has 13 games with five-plus threes in his career.
Pearl will not put any stipulations on Brown and his shooting prowess. The junior from Stone Mountain, Ga. has already proven that he can synthesize the situation and when to hoist and when not to hoist his three-point shot.
“I think any coach that would reign Bryce in has lost his mind,” Pearl commented, “I think that I had said Bryce Brown was one of the best guards in our league. It is a strong statement, but it is what that expectation for Bryce is.”
Brown is one of the best marksmen in the nation. In leading Auburn in scoring at 17 ppg. and then making 41.5 percent of his triples, he is clearly the type of player who can take over a game. Much of that idea is spawned from him sharing a backcourt with Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron, who are dynamic and cause matchup problems for opponents and that helps each other on the perimeter.
“My thought would be that Bryce is absolutely capable of taking over games,” said Pearl, “ It’s a complement to Bryce that you say he can take things over. He stays patient in making opportunities for attack.”
👌 takeaways from last night’s home win over Vandy, via @greg_ostendorf
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) February 4, 2018
The student section at Auburn, known as “The Jungle” and the sell out crowds as a whole have given the Auburn Tigers one of the toughest basketball venues in the nation to navigate for opponents. The excitement roles further when Pearl leads the cheers and whips the crowd into a frenzy.
Pearl appreciates that type of support as he has built such a strong interest int he program. He talked about seeing growing hoops environments on the road in SEC play.
“There’s been no difference because we sold out most of our games last year,” said Pearl “‘The Jungle’ was alive and well and full. I see a pick up in the atmospheres around the league. When we went to Alabama, Ole Miss, and Missouri – all of these teams have made progress and our league.”
The Tigers move forward to No. 8 in the nation in the polls this week as they host resurgent Texas A&M on Friday and then travel to Georgia on Saturday. That is the highest national ranking for the Tigers since they were No. 7 in the country on Jan. 24, 2000.
Before the season started, Auburn was picked in about the middle of the SEC at No. 8 or No. 9.
“It’s been rallying things and we want it to continue to be,” explained Pearl, “We never felt like we were being snubbed. We have such respect for the league. We finished 11th last year. Now, do we think we can compete and have a chance to do better than that? Now, we can show that on the floor.”