Ready Or Not, Tigers Play A Game On Friday

Bruce Pearl's Tigers will take the court on Friday night to play an exhibition game vs. West Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.--With a wounded head coach and a rebuilt roster, ready or not the 2014-15 Auburn basketball team will go on public display Friday night with its only exhibition game prior to starting the regular season next week.

Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. at Auburn Arena as the University of West Alabama Tigers visit. All of the seats are sold, but Auburn is selling standing room tickets to the contest.

Bruce Pearl, who had back surgery on Tuesday to repair an out of place disk that was causing pain to a nerve, will be on the bench on Friday night coaching the Tigers. Asked what he wants to see from his team, Auburn’s first-year head coach said, “I just hope they are excited about playing in front of our crowd. I would like to see them start playing better together.

“I know it is early, but I think they are frustrated we are not better,” Pearl said of his team. “I am sure they thought they thought they would be further along and are concerned that they are not. It is just a process we have to go through.”

The Tigers had a closed scrimmage on Sunday in New Orleans vs. Tulane. Asked how that went, Pearl said, “It was very useful. It was good. Like any kind of scrimmage you have some good things and some bad things, and it exposes some things. I am not happy with how we have reacted to some of the challenges.

“Whether we play Tulane or Milwaukee, these teams have been together for years,” Pearl added. “We have been together only a very short time and we have only five returning players with some new guys. It is just a new system--nobody has been through it before. I would like to see them be able to handle adversity better because we are going to face plenty of adversity this year.”

Pearl returned to practice on Wednesday after having his surgery on Tuesday. He rushed back to his job because he said that he wanted to be an example to his team that sometimes you have to perform with pain.

The coach wasn’t happy with the Wednesday workout. “They did not come to practice today to get better, to learn,” he said. “They got frustrated.

“We are not shooting the ball particularly well and it challenges guy’s confidences when they don’t shoot the ball well. It is not a confident bunch. We just have to work through it.”

Commenting on why he bucked doctor’s orders not to be at practice on Wednesday, the coach said, “I just felt the need to be here. I have a job to do. I have got to play through pain, they have to play through pain. We are down on numbers. We only have 10 scholarship guys out there. I didn’t want us to be a man down.”

The head coach added that he is seeing some signs of progress. “I think we have a chance to be a pretty good defensive team, but can we rebound because we are not very big?” he said. “That is going to be a challenge.”

Senior guard K.T. Harrell noted that the Tigers need to play a game. "We are excited and we have been working very hard," he said. "It has been a long time. It feels like preseason has been going on forever."

Harrell, who was sharp with his three-point shooting in Wednesday's practice, said, "I feel good about it. I have been working on it in preseason."

K.T. Harrell is shown at practice.

Like Pearl the guard pointed out that the scrimmage vs. Tulane was productive. "We did a lot of good things and we saw some things we need to work on. We are exciited to play on Friday and I heard it is sold out so it will be exciting for the fans."

Auburn will open the regular season a week from Friday with a home game vs. the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Guard Antoine Mason takes a jumpshot in practice.

Hoops Notes: The Tigers will feature two seniors who are coming off of a big scoring seasons. Graduate student Antoine Mason, a transfer from Niagara, averaged 25.6 points per game last year, which was second nationally behind only to Doug McDermott of Creighton, who averaged 26.9. K.T. Harrell, who averaged 18.3 points per game for the Tigers last season, is the top returning scorer in the SEC...Auburn and West Alabama have played three times. Auburn won 49-44 during the 1948-49 regular season and 90-50 in 1960. AU won an exhibition game in November 2010 by a score of 79-66...The Tigers will open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 14 with a home game vs. the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. for that contest.

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