Auburn Basketball Game 17 Preview/Notes

Auburn looks to even its SEC hoops record as South Carolina visits for a Saturday night game.

Cinmeon Bowers (above) leads the SEC in rebounds.

Auburn, Ala.--Looking to bounce back from a road loss to Florida and even their SEC basketball record at 2-2, the Auburn Tigers will play host to South Carolina on Saturday night.

Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CST at soldout Auburn Arena where the Tigers have posted an 8-1 mark this season. Auburn is 9-7 overall while the visiting Gamecocks are 10-5 overall and 1-2 in the SEC.

Auburn is coming off a 75-55 setback on Thursday night to the Gators and will have to make a quick turnaround for Saturday’s game that will be televised on the SEC Network. South Carolina last played at home on Tuesday, edging Alabama 68-66.

Coach Bruce Pearl said his Tigers need to play better vs. the Gamecocks than they did at Florida. “You always want to try to learn from what you are doing,” he said. “I did not think we shared the ball particularly well in the first half. I do not think we recognized the advantage we had inside until it was too late.

Bruce Pearl is in his first season at Auburn.

“We let them reverse the floor in the side-ball screen,” the coach said. “Pretty much everything we tried to do we could not do. There was not much we wanted to do that we were able to do.

“We have to put it behind us and focus on the next opponent,” Pearl said. "The reason for focusing on the next opponent is it is all going to be about matchups. Every night is going to be about matchups.

"South Carolina will probably look at that and see what Florida does and have some of that stuff in their offense and maybe look to go to that stuff a little harder," Pearl pointed out.

“I think the other thing that happens to you is that while teams try to focus on getting better throughout the season, the other thing that becomes painfully clear is that the scouting report is out on you,” Pearl noted. “The book is out.

“What I am trying to do to get our guys looks, shots and spots, advantage and disadvantage,” he said. “I am doing it because it is the best thing we can possibly do to score. Putting our personnel in the best possible positions. Take that away and then the question is do our players have that counter. Do I have that counter? We were not able to do that with Florida.”

Duane Notice, a 6-2 sophomore guard from Canada, leads the Gamecocks in scoring at 12.1 points per game. Coach Frank Martin’s three-guard lineup includes 6-5 sophomore Sindarius Thornwell, who is averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 points per game, and 6-3 senior Tyrone Jones, who is also scoring 10.5 points per game.

Demetrius Henry, a 6-9 sophomore, is averaging seven points and four rebounds. The other expected starter, 6-11, 251 junior Laimonas Chatkevicius from Lithuania, is averaging 9.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

Pearl said the Gamecocks have good big men coming off the bench so Cinmeon Bowers and the other Auburn big men need to stay out of foul trouble to avoid a major size mismatch.

Rebound to Rebound: Pearl said his Tigers are going to need to step up their play on the boards vs. the Gamecocks, who average seven more rebounds per game than they give up. Auburn is averaging 3.4 fewer rebounds per game than its opponents.

Tigers vs. Gamecocks: Auburn leads the series 22-15, but was walloped 74-56 in the opening round of the 2014 SEC Tournament by the Gamecocks. That same night Athletic Director Jay Jacobs fired Coach Tony Barbee, opening a spot for the Tigers to bring Pearl on board. The Tigers have a 9-7 record vs. South Carolina while playing as the home team.

Bowers Ball: Bowers, who posted his 10th double-double for points and rebounds vs. Florida, has 181 rebounds in 16 games, one more than last season’s team leader, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, gathered during 30 games. Bowers, who is averaging 13.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, needs to average seven rebounds in the team’s final 15 regular season games to move pass Mike Mitchell’s total of 286 rebounds in 1974-75, the 10th highest total in AU history.

Bowers, a junior power forward, is pulling in just over one of every three rebounds the Tigers have through their first 16 games.

BP Needs KT: Senior guard K.T. Harrell, who is the top returning scorer in the SEC with his 2013-14 average of 18.3 points per contest, has yet to reach his 2014-15 scoring average of 16.4 points per game in Auburn's three league contests. He scored eight points vs. Vandy, 14 vs. Missouri and eight vs. Florida. The guard is third in the SEC in scoring, second in three-point percentage at .433 and eight in field goal shooting at .450. He has led the Tigers in scoring nine times this season.

Up Next: The Tigers will play at home on Wednesday at 8 p.m. vs. Mississippi State.

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