AUBURN, Alabama–Coach Bruce Pearl is hoping for a strong performance from Devan Cambridge as the sophomore guard returns to his hometown for the first time to play an SEC basketball game. Cambridge and the Tigers will take on Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday looking to snap a three-game losing streak.
Cambridge moved back into the starting lineup on Saturday vs. Ole Miss and responded with a season-high 16 points, but the Tigers came up short, losing 86-84 to the Rebels in overtime.
“I think Devan came back from Christmas with a great mindset,” Pearl said. “He was disappointed in the preseason (pre-conference games) and put that on himself. Now playing with a gifted point guard like Sharife (Cooper), who is able to find him at the rim and is able to find him on the perimeter, clearly has helped his offensive game.
“Because he is more involved in the offense, his defense has picked up tremendously–his physicality, his rebounding,” the coach says. “That is so true of basketball players. If they are a little bit more involved on the offensive end, they are just a lot more active and enjoying the game more on the defensive end.”
Cambridge, who has played in all 20 games this season with a dozen starts, has scored 10 or more points 10 times, including seven of Auburn’s last nine games. His scoring average is 8.8 points per game, up from 4.2 last season. He is averaging 3.7 rebounds, up from 2.3 in 2019-20.
The sophomore produced his first college double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds vs. St. Joseph’s and he blocked five shots, a collegiate high, in Auburn’s road win at Georgia.
“He has got the potential to be a great player and he has made progress, I think you are beginning to see now, » Pearl said. « Earlier in the year we talked about Allen Flanigan and how much progress he had made from his freshman year to his sophomore year. Allen’s getting a lot of attention in the scouts because we ask a lot of him offensively and defensively, but you have begun to see now Devan Cambridge start to make a lot of progress between his freshman year and sophomore year, particularly in SEC play.
“He has been really productive and I hope it continues,” Pearl added. “I don’t think it has much to do with whether he starts or comes off the bench. I think it has to do with his own mindset and playing out there with Sharife.”
The Auburn at Vandy game will be televised on the SEC Network and played at a location where the Tigers have struggled to win over the years. Although Auburn has won its three previous matchups vs. the Commodores, Vandy has a 51-18 edge in games played at Nashville. The Commodores are 38-14 vs. Auburn at Memorial Gym.
“Auburn is 1-10 in our last 11 visits to Nashville (to play at Vandy) so we are going to remind the team, talk to the team a little bit about that,” Pearl said.
“They are 4-1 when they score 75 points or more,” he said of the 2020-21 Commodores, who are 5-9 overall and 1-7 in the SEC. “They are 1-8 when they are held under 75 points and teams are scoring 76 against us so 75 is kind of a magic number. How can we get there?
“Vanderbilt has one of the more unique offenses with Coach (Jerry) Stackhouse, a great college and NBA player, and he does a tremendous job of getting guys shots,” Pearl pointed out. “If they are making those shots, they are really dangerous. They are second in the league in making threes, they are better from three than two. The stuff they run is really hard to guard.”
Pearl noted that the key player offensively for the Commodores is sophomore point guard Scotty Pippen, Jr., who is averaging 21 points and 5.4 assists. “He is ranked third or fourth in the country in offensive usage percentage. The ball is going to be in his hands most of the time. He is a good shooter. He is probably even better from two so the things that we struggle with, keeping people out front, are the things he’s good at. He is a real competitor. Everything they do kind of runs through him.”
The Tigers will take the court with a 10-10 overall record and they are 4-7 in SEC games.
*A victory vs. the Commodores would give the Tigers their first four-game winning streak in the series since winning six straight from 1984-86.
*Flanigan has scored in double figures 17 times this season, second in the SEC behind D.J. Stewart of Mississippi State, who has done it 18 times.
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*Starting all nine games since becoming eligible, Sharife Cooper doesn’t have enough games played to officially qualify in the SEC statistical leaders categories. The freshman is averaging 8.9 assists, which is not only the top number in the league, nobody in Division I college basketball has a higher average this season. He is one of four freshmen in the country with three games of 25 or more points. Cooper is averaging 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest.
*Auburn’s 14 blocks in the first game vs. Georgia and the same number vs. Missouri are the highest total for a Division I team this season.
SEC Schedule (All Times CST)
Alabama at South Carolina 5:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Arkansas at Kentucky 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Auburn at Vanderbilt 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Georgia at Tennessee 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Missouri at Ole Miss 8 p.m. (SEC Network)
LSU at Mississippi State 8 p.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia at Texas A&M, postponed
Florida at Tennessee, postponed