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#13 Auburn at Saint Louis Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn heads to the ‘Gateway to the West’ for a matchup with Saint Louis.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Loyola-Chicago Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday December 18th, 2021

Auburn Tigers at Saint Louis Billikens

Chaifetz Arena - St. Louis, Missouri

Time: 8:00PM CT

Network: CBS Sports Network, Auburn Radio Network

Over the years, Coach Bruce Pearl hasn’t been afraid to take his teams to play at schools that most wouldn’t think twice about playing. Auburn has played at Murray State and South Alabama over the last few years. Tonight, the Tigers add Saint Louis to that list.

Auburn has a chance to earn a Q1 win tonight as they travel to Saint Louis to take on the Billikens. While Auburn played “at” South Florida, that game was in Amalie Arena which is not the Bulls home gym. So tonight’s the first time this year Auburn will play a game at an opponent’s gym.

Bruce Pearl returns from his 2-game suspension tonight as well for this contest after missing wins over Nebraska and North Alabama. After a sluggish first half on Tuesday against North Alabama, Auburn pulled away in the 2nd half and held the Lions to 44 points Tuesday night in Auburn’s 70-44 victory.

Walker Kessler led the way Tuesday night with 14 points and 8 rebounds with Jabari Smith and Devan Cambridge scoring 13 each. It wasn’t the Tigers best shooting night as Auburn was just 25-69 from the floor (36.2%) but Auburn’s defense was on point all night and outscored North Alabama 38-17 in the second half.

Get to Know Saint Louis

Auburn faced Saint Louis 2 years ago in Birmingham and this is part of a 3 game series with the program. The teams were originally supposed to both play in the Orlando Invitational last season and at the moment, Saint Louis is supposed to return the trip to Auburn next season to finish the series.

The Billikens (8-3) home schedule this year has included the likes of Auburn, UAB, Belmont and Boston College. UAB and Belmont were able to walk out of Chaifetz Arena with 5 point victories while the Billikens defeated Boston College 79-68 last Saturday. The other loss for Saint Louis this year was a 90-74 decision at Memphis.

The Billikens are averaging more PPG than Auburn (83.2 compared to Auburn’s 82.8) but a lot of that can be attributed to scoring 127 against a non-Division 1 opponent. As a team, they shoot 39.5% from 3-point range.

Unfortunately for Saint Louis, last year’s leading scorer Javonte Perkins (17.1 PPG) is out for the year with a torn ACL suffered before the season and he was the leading scorer 2 years ago in this matchup 2 years for the Billikens.

Without Perkins, Saint Louis is led in scoring by guard Gibson Jimerson (#24) who averages 16.7 PPG. He’s an excellent 3-point shooter, making 40.7% of his 3-pointers and shoots 87.5% from the free throw line.

The Billikens only other double-digit scorer is forward Marten Linssen (#12) who is averaging 10.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG so far this year. Originally from Germany, Saint Louis is Linseen’s 3rd school after playing for both UNC Wilmington and Valparaiso earlier in his career.

While Saint Louis has only two double-digit scorers, they have multiple players knocking on the doorstep of averaging over 10 PPG.

Guard Yuri Collins (#1) is one of the best point guards Auburn will have faced so far this season. Collins set a school record last Saturday with 19 assists against Boston College and averages 9.8 PPG along with 7.9 APG. Collins is also averaging about 2 steals per game as well.

Guard Jordan Nesbitt (#15) returned home to Saint Louis after spending a year at Memphis. He’s averaging 9.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG this season.

Rounding out the starting lineup is forward Terrence Hargrove Jr. (#22) averaging 8.6 PPG and 5.3 RPG.

Off the bench, Saint Louis has Oregon transfer Francis Okoro (#5) averaging 8.4 PPG, and leads the team in rebounds, 6.6 RPG and blocked shots, 16 blocks through 11 games.

Guards Fred Thatch Jr. (#20) and Deandre Jones (#55) round out the rotation for Saint Louis averaging 6.8 and 5.5 PPG respectively.

Prediction

I’ve said this many times but personally, I love games like this and Auburn should learn a lot tonight. This is a massive game for Saint Louis who is looking for a resume boosting victory with a SEC team coming to town. Saint Louis is a few plays away from being 10-1 coming into tonight’s game. I think whoever is the most physical team and more efficient team from 3 will win this game. I’m picking Auburn to win but I won’t be surprised one bit if Saint Louis pulls the upset.

Auburn 78 Saint Louis 73