No team wants to begin conference play 0-2. Auburn, 8-6, will have its hands full trying to avoid doing just that when the Mizzou Tigers, 7-7, visit the Plains on Saturday.
Auburn’s non-conference schedule was nothing to laugh at, as it ranked fourth in strength of schedule among their SEC counterparts. Auburn concluded it by winning its last five games in a row. But last Tuesday Auburn opened conference play with a 64-52 loss in Nashville to Vanderbilt. Mizzou, meanwhile, started conference play by hosting LSU, coming from behind to force overtime and ultimately winning 74-67.
While Auburn looked impressive with wins against non-conference teams like Xavier and Oregon State, Mizzou’s non-conference play included losses to teams such as Arizona, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, all three ranked and expected to be dancing come March. During Friday’s press conference Auburn coach Bruce Pearl acknowledged as much, saying he believed Mizzou’s non-conference schedule was “as hard as anybody in the league.”
Pearl also said if his team were to come away with a win on Saturday, the environment would have to be a factor. Coach Pearl would love to simulate the home court advantage that Vandy has when teams enter Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
Auburn big man Cinmeon Bowers, one of four players in the country averaging a double-double, will face the most size he’s seen all season. Mizzou was able to claw back against LSU thanks mainly to the play of their big man, 6 foot 9 inch, 255 pound sophomore, Johnathan Williams III.
The key to a victory on Saturday for Auburn could very well be giving Bowers some help. His teammates will need to crash the boards and lighten Bowers’ rebounding load. The Tigers were out rebounded by 21 against the Commodores.
Auburn will also have to pick up their shooting. They shot slightly over 30% from the field against Vandy and K.T. Harrell was the only Auburn player to score in double-digits. Auburn also struggled from the stripe against Vandy, shooting right at 50 percent. That statistic has to improve if Auburn hopes to avoid a two-game losing streak to start conference play.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen
When: 7pm EST / 6pm CDT
Watch: SEC Network
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN3
Listen: Auburn IMG Network