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North Alabama at #13 Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn hosts an in-state foe this evening.

NCAA Basketball: Central Florida at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday December 14th, 2021

North Alabama Lions at Auburn Tigers

Auburn Arena

Time: 8:00PM CT

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

After an impressive 99-68 win over Nebraska on Saturday in Atlanta, the Tigers welcome an in-state foe to Auburn Arena this evening. Auburn welcomes North Alabama to Auburn Arena in the team’s first matchup since 2015 and the first time since the Lions from Florence made the move to Division 1. The teams were supposed to play last year in the season opener that was cancelled due to COVID delaying the start of the regular season.

Coach Bruce Pearl will serve his second game of his 2-game suspension tonight and so son Steven Pearl makes his head-coaching “debut” tonight in Bruce’s absence. Wes Flanigan did a great job in the role on Saturday and it was a complete performance from the Tigers with another 20+ point performance for Jabari Smith. Wendell Green has continued to make strides since the start of the regular season and had one of his best games so far this year scoring 19 points and continuing to show range that reminds Auburn fans of Jared Harper.

Get to Know North Alabama

I’ve always been a proponent of Auburn playing in-state teams so I’m glad to see this one on the schedule. Coach Tony Pujol has done a nice job in Florence as the team finishes its transition to Division 1 this season and had the Lions in the Atlantic Sun Championship game last season.

North Alabama comes into tonight’s game with a 6-3 record and winners of 5 straight. That said, tonight’s a big level up in competition for UNA. This is the Lions 2nd SEC opponent this season as they played at Mississippi State to start the season (lost 75-49). Since the opener, North Alabama has played 2 teams from the MAAC, 3 teams from the SWAC and 3 non-Division 1 teams.

North Alabama averages 75.7 PPG and only allows 57.8 PPG. They shoot 35% from 3 and 81% from the free throw line as a team. Like Auburn, they go about 10-11 deep in their rotation as well, but similarly to the Yale game, Auburn will have a significant height advantage in this one.

Freshmen guard Daniel Ortiz (#2) leads the Lions in scoring while coming off the bench averaging 11.7 PPG. He is shooting 18-32 from 3-point range this year (56.3%). Ortiz is the team’s only player averaging double figures which speaks to the depth of North Alabama. 11 players average at least 10 minutes per game and of those 11, only 2 players average over 25 minutes per game.

As for the starting lineup, the leading scorer amongst starters is junior guard Jamari Blackmon (#3), averaging 9.8 PPG. He is a 30.4% 3-point shooter and a 92.9% FT shooter and leads the team in assists.

Grad student forward Payton Youngblood (#14) is next for UNA averaging 9 PPG and is a 45.7% 3-point shooter.

Senior guard C.J. Brim (#11) is averaging 8.8 PPG and 36.8% from 3. Junior forward Isaac Chatman (#12) averages 6.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG. Rounding out the starting lineup is sophomore forward Damian Forrest (#33) averaging 4.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG. Forrest is the team’s tallest player at 6-10 but only averages 16 minutes per game.

Prediction

This looks like a game that Auburn should be able to take care of business early and continue to work on getting better. After tonight, Auburn has just 2 non-conference games left before SEC play, which will be no easy tasks going to Saint Louis on Saturday and hosting Murray State next week. I think the Tigers will be able to create some separation early thanks to their size advantage en-route to a comfortable victory.

Auburn 91 North Alabama 57