Auburn, which is 3-5, will take on the 4-4 visitors with the basketball game scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. CST at Auburn Arena. TV coverage is on the SEC Network.
Auburn is coming off a 71-62 loss on Sunday at Clemson, a team Winthrop defeated to open the regular season. Pearl contends his Tigers will be challenged by the Eagles.
“They have three terrific guards who shoot the three-ball very well,” he says. “They are very well coached, and they have great patterns. It will be a challenge for us defensively, but I think we have a good game plan. We have to improve offensively to give ourselves a chance to win.”
At Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices the Tigers spent extra time working to get seven-foot-two freshman center Trayvon Reed ready to contribute. He joined the team on Saturday. The same is true of six-foot-nine sophomore forward Alex Thompson, who is expected to make his season debut on Wednesday night.
Pearl notes the Tigers are trying to build the team’s chemistry with Thompson and Reed now in the mix and with Antoine Mason back after he missed games two through seven with an ankle injury.
“With eight scholarship players our chemistry was great,” Pearl said. “We weren’t big enough, we weren’t deep enough, but we were playing pretty hard and for the most part pretty well.”
Regaining good team chemistry with the expanded roster will be important to the team’s success, Pearl says. “We will have more size and more depth, giving us a chance to be more competitive when we get to SEC play.
“That said, when does it start to help you, because they (Reed and Thompson) don’t know a whole lot about where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do right now,” Pearl adds. “That is the stage that we are in.”
Bruce Pearl is in his first season at Auburn.
Senior Keon Moore, a six-foot-five guard, leads the Eagles in scoring at 17.3 points per game and is fourth in the Big South Conference in treys per contest with 3.25. As a team the Eagles have shot 185 threes and are making an average of 8.3 per contest. Sophomore Keon Johnson, a 5-7 guard, is averaging 11.3 points. Andre Smith, a 5-10 senior guard, is scoring 9.5 points per game.
Winthrop is returning to action after a seven-day layoff for exams. In its last outing the Eagles defeated Mars Hill 96-51. It was the largest margin of victory for Winthrop since an 85-41 game vs. VMI on Jan. 23, 2008.
Pearl says it is a big deal to get Mason back to help with the scoring. “We are struggling offensively, and he is better offensively than he is defensively so it is great to have him back and I am glad he got through the injury. The good thing is he did not experience any pain after the (Clemson) game.”
Mason said that he was about 80 percent of full speed on Sunday, but was happy to be able to contribute. “Stepping back on that court is an amazing feeling. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous at first. When you are coming off an injury, you are concerned about it, but as the game went on I got into a rhythm.”
2,000 Points: Mason needs 33 more points to become the 521st player in NCAA Division I player to score 2,000 points in his career.
Let’s Play Two: Auburn Arena will be the site of a doubleheader with the women’s team taking on 4-3 Savannah State at 5:30 p.m. to open the action. Coach Terry Williams-Flournoy’s Tigers have a 6-2 record.
Fans with tickets to the women’s game can stay for the men’s contest, but should move to standing-room areas as men’s tickets will take priority for reserved seating during game two.
Wednesday's game will be a Toys for Tots night for the women’s team. Fans can receive free admission with the donation of an unwrapped, unopened toy. The first 500 fans for the women's game will also receive an Auburn “Ugly Christmas Sweater” T-shirt and the Beale Street Flippers will perform at halftime.
Auburn vs. Winthrop: Auburn leads the series 3-1, but lost the last matchup 74-67 in December of 2012.
Up Next: The Tigers will play host to Xavier at 5 p.m. CST on Saturday.