Auburn basketball enjoying 2017-18 season by ’emulating’ Tigers football

AUBURN, Ala. — It was only fitting that Auburn football stepped into the spotlight during halftime of Auburn basketball’s win on Wednesday night over Kentucky.

For just a few moments, members of Gus Malzahn’s football team joined the Tiger Paws for a performance that showcased both their athleticism and rhythm.

The playful dance only elevated the evening’s already electric atmosphere, and it wasn’t the first time the football team had affected the goings-on in Auburn Arena.

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Auburn wide receiver Noah Igbinoghene went airborne during football’s halftime show. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)

“In the fall, our guys paid very close attention to our football team — not just the winning, but their energy, their emotion, their passion, some of the incredible scenes in the locker room of those guys just dancing and celebrating,” Bruce Pearl said on Thursday. “You could see there was something special about that group.”

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The scenes on the gridiron led Pearl’s team to start putting together its own list of goals. First it needed to win. That would allow more time for its own locker room dance parties.

“We talked about it and I would like to think in some ways we’re emulating it,” Pearl said.”

Much like Jordan-Hare Stadium was from September to November, Auburn Arena has been the place to be on The Plains this winter. For the first time in years, students are willing to stand in winding lines and wait for all the fun that comes with attending basketball games. That was, as expected, the case when Kentucky visited this week.

“I’m not sure that there was a better environment in college basketball tonight than Auburn, Ala.,” Pearl said after the win. “It was the loudest that I’ve ever heard the building. Both teams played really hard.”

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John Calipari’s team made things difficult for Auburn, both with its length and skill throughout the first half. The Tigers were able to overcome the Wildcats, though, at least in some part because of their home-court advantage.

Malzahn’s football guys were among some of the most animated in the student section. When Anfernee McLemore swatted shots or Bryce Brown drained 3-pointers, football players were on their feet. Pearl also took notice of the adults and colleagues enjoying the evening.

“To have Gus [Malzahn] at the game, at all the games — Gus doesn’t just come to the Kentucky game. He comes to all of them, and all his staff,” said Pearl, who watched the halftime performance on Twitter after the game. “And all the other Auburn coaches, it’s pretty neat. I love, just the fact that the football team worked with the cheerleaders on something, something together, it’s such a cool thing. I’m grateful for that.”

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Auburn coach Bruce Pearl thanked fans after his team’s win over Kentucky on Valentine’s Day. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Football has used basketball’s success to its advantage this season, too. Malzahn and his coaching staff have brought top recruits to games on weekends. The programs are very different, but are working together well.

Now both programs have reason and motivation to keep dancing.

“Great environment last night, and I do think it had a lot to do with our success,” Pearl said. “Kentucky did a lot of things that bothered us, and we weren’t able to make shots. I think the fact that the stage was big and our guys played hard and played together, it was a great sign.”

The post Auburn basketball enjoying 2017-18 season by ’emulating’ Tigers football appeared first on SEC Country.

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