Auburn Men's Basketball coach Bruce Pearl has issued a challenge to members of "The Jungle," and it's quite simple: stand up and cheer like crazy at the start of the second half of home basketball games.
Pearl recognizes that the difficult stretch of SEC play is only beginning, and as the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-9, 1-3 SEC) visit the host Tigers (10-7, 2-2 SEC) tonight, he'll need Auburn Arena to be rocking like it was last Saturday during a hard-fought win over the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Tigers are 9-1 at home this season—their only loss coming at the hands of Coastal Carolina earlier in the season—and it's largely in part to the new wave of an intense, dedicated, and raucous crowd of fans led by the student body. Bruce Pearl has embraced and certainly encouraged a basketball revival both on and off the court, but it's his relentless pursuit of the all-intimidating home crowd that has gotten fans excited about Auburn basketball again. Upon arriving back to campus for spring classes, students were surprised to find Pearl at the Student Center handing out free Auburn basketball "swag," which undoubtedly got them back into the swing of being in the stands for Auburn's current SEC gamut.
For the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the 2014-2015 season has been a difficult one. They've lost to 9 of their last 12 opponents, including Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Florida, to whom the Tigers also suffered a demoralizing loss last week. However, State will be riding some positive momentum after beating a good Vanderbilt squad 57-54 on the 17th.
Auburn will need to contain the Bulldogs' top scorers, junior guard Fred Thomas and senior forward Roquez Johnson. Defensively, the Tigers will look once again to big man Cinmeon Bowers, who is averaging 11.2 rebounds per game. KT Harrell and Antoine Mason both lead Pearl's squad in scoring so far this season.
After a game in which Harrell scored 24 points to hold off a stingy Gamecocks team, Auburn will need him to produce big again. Combined with Bowers' ability to make big plays in the paint, Harrell, Mason, and the rest of the Tigers should be able to produce plenty of crowd noise throughout tonight's game. Free throws will also be crucial in what will likely be a very physical game between two teams vying for a mid-season jump in the SEC rankings.
So wear some comfortable shoes, Auburn fans. There won't be much sitting down inside the Arena tonight. War Eagle.
How to Watch, Listen, Stream
When: 8:00pm CDT
Watch: SEC Network
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN3
Listen: Auburn IMG Network