Last season, the Tigers welcomed Xavier into Auburn Arena five days before Christmas and gave the home crowd a gift they'd never forget—a double-overtime win to the tune of 89-88 thanks to an incredible effort by KT Harrell and Malcolm Canada. The crowd was raucous, Bruce Pearl was fired up, and the Tigers earned some much-needed momentum deep into the school's winter break.
Today, undefeated Xavier (10-0) looks to return the favor as Auburn (5-2) heads into Cincinnati's Cintas Center. The Tigers earned a hard-fought 78-71 home victory over Mercer on Tuesday, so a win on the road against a very good Xavier team will definitely boost Auburn's non-conference resume as it aims to build one worthy of post-season play. It will not be an easy task by any stretch.
On Tuesday, Auburn dealt with a couple of key injuries—primarily when TJ Lang left the game early with injuries to his right ankle and Achilles. Kareem Canty had some ankle problems as well, but he finished the game with some massive three-pointers and should be available against the Musketeers. Tahj Shamsid-Deen is also uncertain at this point. Otherwise, fans can expect a familiar-looking team on the court.
Canty, who despite going 4-9 behind the arc on Tuesday, is leading the Tigers in points per game (19.3) and assists (6.0). Tyler Harris is right behind him with 17.0 points per game and 9.1 rebounds. He had 20 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists on Tuesday and recorded his third straight double-double. Cinmeon Bowers still leads the team in rebounding (9.7 per game) and has four double-doubles in the last five games.
Xavier might not have the Uber-driving Matt Stainbrook on the roster anymore (graduated last year), but at 10-0, the Musketeers have found ways to score without him. Sophomore guard Trevon Bluiett—who saw action against Auburn at the Arena last season—leads the team in points per game (14.6) and is averaging 7.9 rebounds a game as well. Junior forward James Farr leads the team in rebounds (8.4 per game).
The name of the game for Auburn will once again be consistent play for 40 minutes. A completely flat opening in the second half against Middle Tennessee State last weekend ultimately cost Auburn a win as the Blue Raiders came away victorious in overtime. While the Tigers were able to take care of business against Mercer (in front of a home crowd and thanks to some lights-out, last-second shooting by Kareem Canty), a road win against an undefeated Xavier team will require complete focus and solid, fundamental basketball on both ends of the court. Free throws have also been a thorn in Auburn's side this season (.651 so far), so if Auburn can get to the line often today, it will need to capitalize on every opportunity. They ain't called free throws for nothin'.
It'll be a tough one, for sure, but at least the game will actually be on television this time and not on some crappy feed with horrible commentators and inexcusable lag (AHEM, MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE).
Pull 'em through wherever (and however) you choose to track the Tigers.
War Damn Eagle.
How to Watch:
Auburn vs. Xavier
When: 11:00 AM CT
Watch: Fox Sports 1
Listen: Auburn IMG Network
Radio Affiliates: 100.5 FM (Birmingham), 94.3 FM (Auburn), 1230 AM (Huntsville), 106.5 FM (Mobile), 92.3 FM (Montgomery)