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Game Preview and Open Thread - #8 Auburn vs. Arizona

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Let’s finish strong Auburn!

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Auburn Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Wednesday November 21

Opponent: Arizona Wildcats

Location: Lahaina Civic Center, Lahaina, Hawaii

Time: 10:30PM

Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network

Alright everyone, it’s time for a late night with the Auburn Tigers! The Tigers will close out their experience in Hawaii by facing off against the Arizona Wildcats in the 3rd place game of the Maui Invitational. Auburn will look to bounce back from a 78-72 loss at the hands of Duke last night.

Get to Know Arizona...

Expectations for Arizona are a bit down this year after losing several players to the NBA and graduation but that doesn’t mean they’re still not a good team. The Wildcats played an outstanding game for the first 20 minutes last night against Gonzaga and led the Bulldogs 50-37 early in the second half. But then the Bulldogs took over, outscoring the Wildcats 54-29 in the second half for a 91-74 Gonzaga victory. Tonight, Auburn will be tasked with slowing the Brandons, Randolph and Williams, if they want to come on top tonight. Randolph is Arizona’s leading scorer, averaging about 17 points a game so far this year. Williams is one of the top freshmen guards in America, but is only shooting 5-21 so far in this tournament. Also, keep an eye on Justin Coleman, a Birmingham native, who started his career at Alabama before finishing his undergrad eligibility at Samford. He’s had an outstanding tournament, scoring 46 points over the Wildcats 2 games, including 28 last night in their loss to Gonzaga. The fourth player to know for Arizona is Chase Jeter, a transfer from Duke. Last night was his first game this year not scoring in double figures due to being saddled with foul trouble. Seeing how Jared Harper and Bryce Brown fare against Coleman and Williams is one matchup I’m looking forward to tonight.

What to Look for from Auburn...

I think most would agree that Auburn has not played their best ball out in Maui, especially at the start of the game. While the Tigers have had good looks on the perimeter, shots have simply not fallen for the Tigers. I would like to see Auburn try and get off to a fast start tonight to try and quickly put the Duke loss behind them. Secondly, I worry about fatigue, especially with Harper and Brown. They played over 40 minutes on Monday and each played 38 minutes last night against Duke. While combining for 38 of Auburn’s 72 points last night, they did that on 36 shot attempts. Harper’s been Auburn’s best player in Maui scoring 25 and 22 in the 2 games in Hawaii so far. Next, I look to see how Austin Wiley builds off of last night’s game. He played well, especially in the second half, scoring 17 points to go with 9 rebounds. You have to wonder at some point will Bruce Pearl start Wiley or will he continue to be used as Auburn’s first guy off the bench as he has been so far this year. Finally, I also want to see more out of Chuma Okeke and Samir Doughty. Okeke had just 6 points last night while Doughty has a combined 2 points in 2 games in Maui, while fouling out of last night’s contest.

Score Prediction

This has been an outstanding tournament for Auburn in the sense of dealing with adversity, seeing what can be worked on, and measI was on record saying Auburn would finish 3rd in this tournament and despite last night, the Tigers showed a lot of heart, grit, and toughness to stay within striking distance of the #1 team in America for 40 minutes last night. There were several times last night when Auburn could have folded up the tents and been blown out but not this team. Bruce Pearl said last night that in tonight’s game, Auburn would be “playing for March.” I expect for this team to bounce back and get another nice win to close out their time in Maui.

Auburn 84 Arizona 77