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Murray State at #12 Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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A pair of 10-1 teams face off in Auburn Arena today

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Auburn Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday December 22nd, 2021

Murray State Racers at Auburn Tigers

Auburn Arena

Time: 5:00PM CT

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

After a thrilling road victory at Saint Louis which saw Auburn overcome a 12 point deficit with less than 8 minutes left, Auburn returns home for their final tune-up before SEC play. But this is no ordinary tune-up.

Auburn (10-1) hosts Murray State (10-1) in a matchup of 1-loss teams. Both teams enter today on a 7-game winning streak. The Racers only loss was on a neutral court to East Tennessee State and they have a win at Memphis, something that Alabama was unable to replicate.

The 2 teams will wrap up a 3 game series that began all the way back in the 2017-2018 season when Auburn became the first and still only SEC team to play at Murray State’s CFSB Center. Auburn defeated the Racers 93-88 3 years ago today inside Auburn Arena. These two were supposed to play last season to finish the series but COVID bumped the third matchup to this season.

The big story for Auburn could be the season debut of Allen Flanigan.

It has been rumored for weeks that Flanigan, recovering from an Achilles injury would return in mid-December and before SEC play begins. He was shooting on the court before the Saint Louis game but we’ll see if he will get some game-action this evening.

Get to Know Murray State

Tonight’s a huge opportunity for the Racers along with the Ohio Valley Conference, who will cease to exist as we know it after this season due to realignment. The Racers along with Belmont look like 2 teams from the conference that could potentially compete for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. Murray State comes into tonight’s game averaging 86 PPG and shoot 37.4% from 3 as a team. While Murray State is around the 80 mark in KenPom, they come into tonight’s game at 41 in the NET rankings (both as of this writing).

The last 2 times these teams played each other, Auburn went up against a guy you might be familiar with: Ja Morant. While Morant is now the face of the Memphis Grizzlies, the Racers feature another superb player that will be playing in his home state once again.

Junior guard Tevin Brown (#10) comes in as back-to-back OVC Player of the Week. The Fairhope native is averaging 18.9 PPG and 5.7 RPG. Brown is shooting 40-90 (44.4%) from 3 so far this year and is coming off a 33 point (7-14 from 3), 9 rebound game against Chattanooga. Brown rarely comes off the floor averaging over 34 minutes per game so it’ll be interesting to see how Auburn’s depth affects him as he will likely go the distance in this game as well.

In the paint for Murray State will be junior forward KJ Williams (#0), the only guy taller than 6’8” on this Racers team. At 6’10”, 245 pounds, Williams comes into tonight’s game averaging 16.7 PPG and 7 RPG. Williams is also a 30.6% 3-point shooter.

Sophomore guard Justice Hill (#14) comes into tonight’s game averaging 12.2 PPG and 5 APG. While Hill only shoots the 3 about half as much as Brown, he’s a 43.5% 3-point shooter.

Sophomore forward DJ Burns (#55) joins Williams in the frontcourt averaging 6.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG. Burns began his career at Southern before leaving his home state to join the Racers. Burns is an outstanding offensive rebounder and considering how much Auburn struggled on the glass Saturday, that has to be concerning.

Rounding out the starting lineup is senior guard Carter Collins (#13). A transfer from Davidson, Collins is averaging 5.4 PPG so far this season.

Sophomore guard Trae Hannibal (#2) is Murray State’s primary scorer off the bench and is the 4th double-figure scorer for the Racers averaging 10.7 PPG. The South Carolina transfer also averages 4.6 RPG.

Rounding out the mostly 9-man rotation for Murray State is freshmen forward Nicholas McMullen (#32), senior forward Jordan Skipper-Brown (#31) and sophomore guard DaQuan Smith (#1).

Prediction

Auburn played well in spurts on Saturday but their win at Saint Louis was far from their best performance. If they play similarly today, the Racers can pull off the upset here. Tevin Brown has the ability to put the team on his back and he will likely have to do so but he certainly is capable of it. This has been a tightly contested series with the first 2 games having 4 and 5 point final margins. If Flanigan plays, how much of a boost is that for Auburn? I think its unreasonable to expect too much out of him early but having him out there will help this team. This would be a nice win to go into the Christmas break before their showdown next Wednesday against undefeated LSU. I think Auburn will win but I think it will be a close game.

Auburn 85 Murray State 79