Auburn Basketball: Game 1 Preview/Notes

Bruce Pearl's first regular season Auburn game is vs. one of his former teams as the Tigers take on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers on Friday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Bruce Pearl, the 21st head men’s basketball coach at Auburn, opens the 109th season of Tiger hoops with a 9 p.m. CST home game vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Friday.

Pearl inherited two returning starters from last season’s team that finished with a 14-16 record. Senior guard K.T. Harrell averaged 18.3 points per game, which was sixth in the SEC. Tajh Shamsid-Deen, a sophomore guard, averaged 9.5 points for former Auburn coach Tony Barbee.

The Tigers are expected to start 6-6 juco transfer Cinmeon Bowers and 6-8 junior Jordon Granger at the forward positions with Antoine Mason, a 6-1 transfer from Niagara, at guard.

Cinemeon Bowers, who is show in practice, scored 15 points while adding 10 rebounds in Auburn's exhibition game last week.

“I think the chemistry is good,” Pearl said of his rebuilt team that features only five returning scholarship players from the 2013-14 squad and only four who will be available to play on Friday.

“For all that we have been through and with as many challenges that we have had with this roster, I think the guys have done a really good job battling, practicing and preparing,” Pearl said.

“We have gotten a lot better and I think we are going to have our challenges, but to this point, I think our chemistry has been pretty good,” he added.

The Auburn vs. Milwaukee game will be televised on ESPN2.

Previous Outing: Mason scored 22 points while Harrell added 21 as the Tigers defeated West Alabama 94-58 in an exhibition game last Friday night. The Tigers scored 35 points off of 29 forced turnovers with full-court pressure and halfcourt traps.

Injury Report: Matthew Atewe, a 6-8, 255 sophomore post player, is out indefinitely after reinjuring a fracture in his leg vs. West Alabama.

Quotable: Mason on the need for the guards to rebound with Atewe out of action. “K.T. and I talked about it, and we have to help Cim (Cinmeon Bowers) and Jordon (Granger) and everybody has to gang rebound because Matt was our biggest player. Losing him is going to be a little tough, but we all have to come together.”

Tigers vs. Panthers: This is the first meeting between Auburn and Wisconsin-Milwaukee in basketball. Auburn is 2-0 all-time vs. opponents from the Horizon League with wins over Youngstown State (78-52 in December 1983) and Detroit (75-72 in December 2000).

Scouting Milwaukee: The Panthers must replace their top two scorers from last year’s 21-win team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Matt Tiby, a 6-8, 230 junior forward, is the top returning scorer. He averaged 12 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game last season. Austin Arians, a 6-6, 200 junior forward, averaged 11.1 points and 3.5 rebounds while making 65 treys.

Another key returning player is 6-2 senior point guard Steve McWhorter, who averaged 7.5 points and 4.0 assists last season. Akeem Springs, a 6-4 sophomore guard, led the Panthers in scoring with 14 points in their 68-54 exhibition game victory over Wisconsin-Platteville.

Worth Noting: Pearl was head coach at Milwaukee from 2001-05 and posted an 86-38 record while leading the Panthers to their first two NCAA Tournament appearances and one trip to the NIT. His teams won two Horizon League regular season titles and twice won the league’s postseason tournament.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Harrell was selected to the Coaches Preseason All-SEC Second Team. The last Tiger to make a preseason all-star team chosen by the coaches was guard Dwayne Reed, who was honored prior to the 2009-10 season.

Tickets: Although AU officials announced that season tickets are sold out, single game tickets are available for the regular season opener.

Let’s Play Two: Friday’s game is part of a doubleheader with the AU women’s team opening its season at 6 p.m. vs. Troy. The Tigers return four starters from a squad that finished 19-14 last season. Friday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Up Next: Pearl’s Tigers will head west to take on the University of Colorado for a late night contest on Monday. Tipoff is set for 11 p.m. MST in Boulder, which is midnight in Auburn.

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