Auburn faces a much different team Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT than it did Thursday night. The Tigers must regroup quickly after a 79-59 loss to the Murray State Racers for a contest against the College of Charleston Cougars. The Cougars lost their tournament opener to St. John's, 64-53.
Former Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik took over Charleston in the offseason after the retirement of Bobby Cremins. Last season, the Cougars went 19-12, with a 10-8 conference record. They finished fourth in the Southern Conference and lost to Appalachian State in the first round of the SoCon Tournament. Charleston lost only one player from last season to graduation, Antwaine Wiggins, but he played a key role, leading the team with 15.9 points per game and reliable defense. Without Wiggins, the Cougars are looking to senior Andrew Lawrence, a member of Great Britain's Olympic basketball team, for offense. The 6'1 senior averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 assists last season but was quiet in the game against St. John's. He was just 3 of 7 from the field for seven points.
Junior Nori Johnson, the 6'5 swingman, fared better with a team-high 11 points. Anthony Stitt, a 6'1 sophomore, shot 45 percent from the field last season, but he was limited to just six points against the Red Storm. Junior Trent Wiedeman was 4 for 7 for 10 points against St. John's and is averaging 12.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. At 6'8, 225 pounds, he gives the Cougars presence in the paint.
The Cougars' starting lineup against St. John's was Stitt, Lawrence, junior Anthony Thomas, sophomore Adjehi Baru and Wiedeman. Baru is a 6'9 sophomore, and JUCO transfer Thomas checks in at 6'7. It will be interesting to see how Auburn adjusts to a slower pace of game while still managing to handle the length of the Cougars.
The keys to the game remain the same -- be sound fundamentally on defense, create offensive opportunities and limit the fouls. One would think this should be a lock for the Tigers, but as we have seen, there are times the offense fails to crank up and the defense around the perimeter is woeful. Winning this game won't make much of a statement about the team's level of play, but after Thursday night's performance, it would do wonders for team morale.
Friday night's game will be shown on ESPN3.