Canada, Tigers Preparing for Big Challenge

Senior point guard Malcolm Canada discusses the Tigers as Auburn prepares for a Saturday home basketball game vs. Xavier.

Auburn, Ala.--Bruce Pearl challenged his point guards to step up their play this week and senior Malcolm Canada responded with one of his better performances since he joined the Auburn basketball team last year as Auburn defeated Winthrop 80-62 on Wednxesday night.

Pearl and the Tigers are going to need that to continue and get all the other help they can muster to have a chance against their next opponent, the 8-2 Xavier Musketeers, who will bring an 8-2 record to Auburn Arena for a 5 p.m. CST tipoff on Saturday.

“Xavier is by far the best team we have played,” said Pearl, who noted that he won’t be surprised if the Musketeers win the Big East Conference championship.

“They are big and physical,” said Malcolm. “We watched film on them. They are a good team--a very good team.”

Against Winthrop, in 16 minutes of playing time off the bench, Canada dished out five assists and didn’t have a turnover. He made 2-3 field goals while scoring five points.

Pearl said the point guards did a better job on Wednesday of getting the ball up court quickly to give the Tigers a chance to score transition baskets as well as set up their teammates for shots in the halfcourt offense.

“We try to do a better job of trying to get K.T. (Harrell) more shots,” Canada said. “He is pretty much lights out shooting the ball. We are trying to get Antoine (Mason) the ball in positions he likes, too, on the break and stuff like that.”

Auburn will bring a 4-5 record into Saturday’s game. Pearl said his team is still a work in progress with a lot of areas for improvement.

Canada agrees and said that having Mason healthy enough to play again while adding forward Alex Thompson to the mix has been a plus as has been adding seven-foot-two center Trayvon Reed.

The senior point guard said there hasn’t been much adjustment needed by the team to get comfortable with Mason back in the rotation and the same is true with Thompson, who played last year and was with the team for their summer workouts. “We knew him already,” Canada said of Thompson. “We knew what he can bring to the table.

“The only real new person to the family is Trayvon and it is kind of working out easier than we thought because he fits in,” Canada points out. “He knows he can play a big part on this team.”

Reed, who became eligible to play for the Tigers this week, has seen action in two games. Canada notes he likes what he has seen from the freshman.

“He is willing to learn and it is really easy to bond with those type of guys,” said the senior, who likes have a tall defensive presence on the court. “It is great to have a rim protector back there if we get blown by.”

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