Bruce Pearl favored to maintain a stat about Allen Flanigan in his again pocket within the aftermath of the junior’s preseason Achilles harm.
Flanigan, Pearl would typically remind individuals, was the SEC’s fourth-leading returning scorer heading into this season and the most effective returning gamers in a deep league. The harm to Flanigan was a tricky blow to Auburn within the preseason, however the return of a participant of his caliber would solely bolster the Tigers’ depth and aspirations.
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Ten video games since getting back from surgical procedure to restore that torn Achilles, Flanigan hasn’t fairly been the participant he was final 12 months. That is OK, although; Auburn hasn’t wanted him to be that participant — however he has made some promising strides within the six weeks since he made his season debut Dec. 22 towards Murray State.
Flanigan is coming off one in all his higher performances of the season Tuesday towards Alabama. He completed with 10 factors, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 23 minutes as top-ranked Auburn gained its 18th consecutive sport, swept its cross-state rival and held Alabama to simply 35.7 p.c capturing and solely 11 made baskets inside the three -point arc.
A sport earlier, in an 18-point win towards Oklahoma, Flanigan completed a team-best plus-26 in 25 minutes. He solely scored three factors, to go together with 4 assists and three rebounds, however Auburn was a greater all-around staff on each ends when he was on the court docket.
“I do (suppose he is bettering) and notably the progress he is made defensively,” Pearl stated. “Oklahoma and Alabama possess actually good guards—plenty of actually good guards. And the factor I am most inspired about for Al is that he did a pleasant job on the market defensively, and that is acquired to be his focus, as a result of that’ll clearly assist our staff tremendously.”
Pearl hasn’t pressed Flanigan on the offensive facet. That facet of the sport will absolutely come again to the preseason All-SEC choice in time, and Auburn would not want that offensive oomph from the junior to succeed proper now — not with the way in which Jabari Smith, Walker Kessler, KD Johnson and Wendell Inexperienced Jr. have been delivering evening in and evening out for the nation’s No. 1 staff.
The dearth of stress on Flanigan offensively is helpful, as it’s permitting him to give attention to contributing to the Tigers’ protection. Auburn at present ranks eleventh within the nation in adjusted defensive effectivity (89.1 factors per 100 possessions), based on KenPom. In SEC play — primarily since Flanigan returned from harm — Auburn’s protection has restricted opponents to simply 67.6 factors per sport, which is third within the league.
“I actually suppose that if he focuses on — if he places an excessive amount of focus, or when you guys do, put an excessive amount of consideration on his offensive numbers, it’s going to detract from what he actually must do, and that is to have the ability to defend and rebound at a excessive degree, as a result of that is the place he is acquired some elite (capacity),” Pearl stated. “The offensive stuff will come, however we want him on the defensive finish, as a result of we’re going up towards nice guards. Protection and rebounding win championships, and we’re attempting to win a championship.”
Whereas Pearl has been happy with Flanigan’s affect on the defensive finish, the junior’s offensive numbers are nonetheless attempting to catch up. He is averaging seven factors per sport on 41 p.c capturing — slightly below his profession common of 43.5 p.c — although his 3-point capturing is simply 21.1 p.c to date. He has scored in double figures 4 occasions in 10 video games, ending with 10 factors towards LSU, Georgia and each matchups with Alabama.
Even when he hasn’t been stuffing the stat sheet with factors, his return to the beginning lineup has offered Auburn with some versatility, giving Pearl a giant guard to place in ball-screen conditions.
“There are specific issues we will not do in a ball-screen (with guards Zep Jasper, KD Johnson and Wendell Inexperienced Jr.) due to their measurement,” Pearl stated. “Not so much, however there are some issues. With Al, there are another issues we are able to do from an assault standpoint. I believe it simply makes us tougher to protect while you’ve acquired one other man you’ll be able to put in a ball-screen motion and who generally is a playmaker for you. So, it is actually, actually worthwhile, not simply his capturing or scoring.”
As Flanigan focuses on being locked in defensively, Pearl is assured the remainder will come naturally to him. Auburn is about to embark on the second half of its SEC schedule earlier than gearing up for a postseason run, and Flanigan continues to spherical into type after a critical leg harm.
“He’ll proceed to get slightly faster, getting slightly extra explosive, getting his shot off slightly quicker,” Pearl stated. “These issues are all beginning to come, for certain. Made progress—he did make progress this weekend.”
Tom Inexperienced is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Observe him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.