Both teams will bring a 1-1 mark into the contest that will be televised on FSN as a wounded Auburn team looks to rebound from a road loss at Colorado.
As was the case with Auburn’s first two opponents, Louisiana-LaFayette is a 2014 NCAA Tournament team that should challenge Pearl’s Tigers.
“They bring everybody back but their point guard,” he says. “Their point guard is awfully good, he’s in the NBA right now, and they’ve got an NBA potential center. They play 11 guys and they’re very athletic and extremely well coached.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns are looking to bounce back from a Monday loss to the Tulsa team that Auburn will play in game four on a neutral court on Monday in Las Vegas. Louisiana-LaFayette trailed 32-21 at halftime, but made a 14-2 run to start the second half to take the lead. However, Tulsa forced 25 turnovers on the way to a 64-53 home victory.
Louisiana-LaFayette won its season opener 85-57 vs. Louisiana College. Coach Bob Marlin’s team features 6-9, 245 junior Shawn Long, an All-Sun Belt Conference pick and one of two players in the country to average double-doubles each of the previous two seasons. A transfer from Mississippi State, he is averaging 11.5 points and 5.0 rebounds through two games this year.
Devonta Walker, a 6-7, 220 transfer from Western Texas Junior College, is averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. Brian Williams, a 6-5, 210 senior forward who is a transfer from Oklahoma State, is chipping in with 10 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest.
Pearl’s team trailed Colorado 38-34 at halftime and cut the margin to 42-40 early in the second half, but with the Buffaloes holding a 51-46 lead the Tigers got very cold shooting and were outscored 52-25 in the second half on the way to a 90-59 loss. In the second half the Buffaloes hit 65.4 percent of their shots while the Tigers made just 18.5 percent.
Commenting on the matchup this Friday night, Pearl says, “My concern would be that, as I look at the two things that have bothered us a little bit, one is size and the second would be athleticism.
“Colorado’s starting power forward, number one, (Wesley) Gordon--and I may have used this as an example postgame--he’s a good player, a solid PAC-12 player, but he looked like a first team PAC-12 player against us because he was able to get offensive rebounds, get post touches really close to the basket and we don’t have enough size to challenge him at the rim. That could be a problem against teams that have some size and Louisiana-Lafayette has got some size.
“They obviously have one great player and I think their power forward is also awfully good so that going to be a problem--size,” Pearl notes.
“The second thing is going to be athleticism. If you look at Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s players that were effective, Akeem Springs was very effective. He was their best athlete. I thought some of Colorado’s athleticism gave us problems getting into the lane, unable to make plays in pressure because their athletes were just a little bigger and a little faster, a little quicker and a lot taller. Friday night will be a real challenge. We are going to have to elevate our play to win.”Injury Update: Senior guard Antoine Mason, who missed the Colorado game with an ankle sprain, is questionable for Friday’s contest. Center Matthew Atewe is out of action with a fractured bone in his leg and guard Tajh Shamsid-Deen should be better than he was in game two, Pearl predicts, as the sophomore recovers from a shoulder injury.
Antoine Mason scored 19 points in the season opener despite hurting his ankle in the second half. He is the second-leading scorer on the team behind K.T. Harrell, who is averaging 20 points per contest.
If Mason can’t play that will likely put K.C. Ross-Miller back in the starting lineup. “I am getting more comfortable learning the system and playing with everyone on the team,” says the 6-0 178 guard, a graduate student transfer from New Mexico State. “Obviously, we still have more improvements to make, but I think we are capable of making them.”
Tigers vs. Louisiana-LaFayette: The Tigers have a 5-3 all-time record vs. the Ragin’ Cajuns. Auburn won the previous meeting 93-86 in December 2000.
Cinmeon Bowers, who has posted double-doubles in both of his Auburn games, leads the SEC in rebounds with 15.0 per game. The power forward, who is the SEC Player of the Week, is averaging nine defensive rebounds and six per game on offense.
Up Next: After playing the Ragin’ Cajuns the Tigers will fly to Las Vegas on Saturday where they will play Tulsa at 10 p.m. CST on Monday at the MGM Grand Main Event.