Date: Tuesday November 12th
Opponent: at South Alabama Jaguars
Location: Mitchell Center - Mobile, Alabama
Network: ESPN+, Auburn Radio Network
One of my favorite things in college basketball to see is a P5 school schedule a game at a mid-major school, especially one that calls the same state as yours home. North Carolina is a school that comes to mind who does this often, playing UNC Wilmington last Friday and at Elon last season. Auburn is another who isn’t afraid to go on the road and play a mid-major opponent.
It also provides an opportunity for Auburn fans in the southern part of the state and other surrounding areas to get a home game of sorts and I’m sure the Auburn fans who will be on hand tonight will make their voices heard. The Jungle is sending a group of students down from Auburn.
Auburn Athletics will be providing buses for The Jungle to travel to the game against South Alabama on Nov. 12!— Auburn Jungle (@AUJungle) November 5, 2019
Be looking at your email TODAY to reserve your spot on the bus! #WarEagle pic.twitter.com/qs4LoRCzgS
Auburn heads into the Mitchell Center tonight to take on the South Alabama Jaguars, the first time Auburn has played the Jaguars in Mobile since December 12, 1995, a 59-50 Auburn win. Tonight will be the first time South Alabama has hosted a ranked opponent since beating 25th ranked Houston back in 2005.
Get to Know South Alabama
The Jaguars are led by Richie Riley, who coached at Nichols before making his way to Mobile last year. Riley has brought in several transfers from multiple schools and transformed the Jaguars into a league favorite in very short order.
Senior forward Josh Ajayi (#33) is the leading scorer so far so the Jaguars, averaging 21.5 points over the first 2 games. He had a career high 30 points on Saturday against Southern Miss. Last season, he was 2nd team all-Sun Belt and led the Jaguars in scoring last year at 16.4 PPG and also averaged 7.4 rebounds a game last year. In the game between Auburn last year, Ajayi was the only Jaguar other than Rodrick Sikes who scored in double figures. Sikes, who had 25 for USA, has graduated.
Senior forward Trhae Mitchell (#42) was a high school teammate of Jared Harper. Mitchell had 9 blocks in the season opener against Pikeville. He is averaging 13.5 points so far and averaged 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season.
Ajayi and Mitchell have played exclusively for South Alabama. The rest of the starting lineup consists of senior transfers. Guard Andre Fox (#22) is a transfer from High Point. He’s currently the 3rd leading scorer this year at 13 PPG. Senior guard Chad Lott (#21) is a grad transfer from Howard who also played at Rice. He’s averaging 12 points a game so far this year, but averaged 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds a game with Howard last year. Finally, guard Don Coleman (#25) is a transfer from California, averaging 5.5 points a game.
Keys for Auburn
While Auburn will have a good fan turnout, this is still the Tigers first true road game of the year. How will they handle the environment? One that will pack the Mitchell Center as the game is sold out. Austin Wiley only had 5 points on Friday night and only took 2 shots in the game. Auburn has to get Austin Wiley more involved in their offense in order to be successful long-term.
Fortunately for Auburn, Anfernee McLemore stepped up offensively Friday night as he scored 12 against Davidson Friday night, including several buckets late in the game.
J’Von McCormick turned the ball over too much in the opener but bounced back with 0 turnovers against Davidson Friday night. I’m excited to see him run the offense as this team continues to evolve throughout the year.
Finally, I can’t end this preview without mentioning Isaac Okoro. While known for his defense, Okoro put together a terrific and efficient offensive performance Friday night, going 5-6 from the field, knocking down a couple of 3s and leading Auburn in scoring with 17 points.
Auburn’s first 3 games were certainly no cakewalk, facing a pair of teams with high hopes for the NCAA Tournament last week in Georgia Southern and Davidson. The Jaguars are favorites to win the Sun Belt and the game is on their home floor. There will be challenges, bumps and adversity in this one as the Jaguars won’t be a pushover. This game could be a Q1 win if the Jaguars are able to meet expectations. I’m taking Auburn but I think this game will be really close throughout the duration. Win or lose, kudos to Bruce Pearl for scheduling this game. As I said in the beginning, I would love to see more schools do this. It will be a great night for basketball in the state of Alabama.