Prior to Saturday’s victory over the Spartans, Texas Southern had not defeated a ranked opponent since upsetting No. 16 Minnesota 10 years earlier.
“All you have to do is watch the tape of Michigan State and Texas Southern to appreciate how good Mike Davis’ team is,” Pearl says. “Look at the stat sheet, look at their schedule and the teams that they’ve played and obviously you know that they are not going to be intimidated by coming into Auburn Arena having been to Indiana, Florida, Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan State and all the different places they have been.
“This is one of the oldest teams in the country with all juniors and seniors and transfers,” Pear adds. “The personnel is good. They are quick. They beat you to 50-50 balls. They do a great job of attacking the rim. It’s a pretty confident group in the sense that, in spite of not winning at a lot of those places they obviously kept their focus.
“(Jason) Carter joined them two games ago and he is a really effective post player who can step out and knock down shots so it gives you a five-man that you have to guard inside and you have to guard outside,” Pearl points out about the 6-9, 240 senior.
“It is a good opponent and they come to Auburn at a time where it’s two days before Christmas, our students are gone and everyone is getting ready for the holidays. We really want to encourage our fans to come and if they can’t come, don’t put (the tickets) in stockings because the game is the 23rd not the 26th or 27th, and give them away to some people that haven’t seen us play to get a chance to come see us play.”
Chris Thomas, a 6-5 junior forward who scored 22 points vs. Michigan State, leads TSU in scoring at 15.7 points per game. Deverell Biggs, a 6-1 senior guard, is scoring 10.5 points per game and 6-1 senior guard Madaraious Gibbs is averaging 9.7 points and 3.4 rebounds.
“It’s going to be a close game and we will need another great environment,” Auburn’s first-year head coach says. “The environment had a lot to do with our ability to beat Xavier on Saturday.”
K.T. Harrell leads the SEC in scoring with his average of 18.2 points per contest.
On Saturday Pearl’s Tigers evened their record with a double-overtime victory vs. Xavier, holding off the Musketeers 89-88. K.T. Harrell led Auburn in that victory with 24 points and seven rebounds, which helped the senior guard earn SEC Player of the Week status.
Coverage: The game will be carried on the SEC Network+ (on-line only at ESPN3.com) with Andy Burcham doing the play-by-play and former Auburn women’s basketball coach Joe Ciampi as the analyst.
Home for the Holidays: Auburn is playing its third straight game at Auburn Arena, part of six straight home games before opening league play on Jan. 6th at Vanderbilt. The Tigers are 4-1 at Auburn Arena.
Antoine Mason, a graduate student transfer from Niagara, needs eight points to reach 2,000 for his college career. If he reaches that total Auburn will be the only team in the country featuring a 2,000-point scorer and a 1,000-point scorer on its current roster with K.T. Harrell reaching that mark last week.
Auburn vs. Texas Southern: Auburn defeated TSU 109-81 on Dec. 10, 1988 and again by a score of 85-77 two years later. The Tigers are 22-0 all-time vs. teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Texas Southern vs. the SEC: TSU has played a demanding road schedule that included games vs. two SEC teams, losing 70-58 at Tennessee and 75-50 at Florida.
Up Next: The Tigers return to action with an 8 p.m. Monday tipoff at Auburn Arena vs. Middle Tennessee State.