Auburn Basketball Game 20 Preview/Notes

Texas A&M brings a winning streak to Auburn for a Tuesday night SEC basketball game.

K.T. Harrell (above) is second in the SEC in scoring.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Bruce Pearl said Auburn’s next opponent, the streaking Texas A&M Aggies, will offer a physical challenge to his basketball team.

Texas A&M is 13-5 overall and 4-2 in the SEC with one of the losses coming in overtime to unbeaten Kentucky. In that game the Aggies played without one of their key performers.

Pearl said the Aggies are tough to deal with near the basket and that will be a challenge for the Tigers on Tuesday night at Auburn Arena. The coach said it will be important for Auburn’s defense to pressure the Texas A&M ball-handlers.

“If you can extend your defense, and try to make a team play over 94 feet, that can make up for what you lack in size,” Pearl said. “Our challenge is we are not very tall and we are also not very quick.

“We are a little quicker than some people because we are smaller than them, but not necessarily quicker. We try to extend defensively and bother people with our pressure, but that is just more of an annoyance.”

Coach Bruce Pearl's Tigers are looking to end a two-game losing streak.

The Aggies will arrive at Auburn Arena for Tuesday’s 8 p.m. CST tipoff (TV coverage on the SEC Network) riding a four-game winning streak. Since joining the league starting with the 2012-13 season the Aggies are on their longest winning streak in conference play since taking five straight Big 12 contests in 2011.

“In Texas A&M we are now going to see a really big and physical team--a team that 70 percent of their offense is coming within 15 feet. They do a really good job of getting the ball inside, posting up, driving and rebounding,” Pearl said. “They have 6-5 point guards, 6-6 wings, a 6-7 power forward that plays above the rim and a senior center that is 6-9, 250.

“That is the reason why Texas A&M was able to hang in there with Kentucky,” Pearl noted. “There are only a handful of (SEC) teams that are built to handle Kentucky’s size. Texas A&M was one of them. Ole Miss is one of them. Georgia could be one of them, Arkansas and LSU.”

Texas A&M holds a 5-3 lead in the series vs. Auburn. In their last meeting the Tigers won 69-64 to close the 2013-14 regular season in a game played at College Station, Tex.

Pearl said that he believes that A&M’s Billy Kennedy and Tennessee’s Donnie Tyndall are “ahead of the curve with their teams” and candidates to be SEC Coach of the Year.

Billy Kennedy

The Auburn coach pointed out the more times the Aggies can get the basketball near the goal the better they look offensively. “We have to rotate down and double the ball at the post,” said Pearl, who added that following missed shots the Tigers need to make sure they don’t give the Aggies opportunities to score second-chance points.

It was a rebound basket with six seconds left that proved to be the winning margin for Alabama on Saturday as the Tide edge visiting Auburn 57-55 to drop the Tigers to 2-4 in the SEC and 10-9 overall.

The Aggies, who are coming off a 67-61 victory on Saturday at Tennessee, feature one of the top point guards in the SEC. Alex Caruso, a six-foot-five junior, is averaging 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and an SEC-leading 5.3 assists per game. He also led the league in assists last season.

The other guards are 6-5 senior Jordan Green, who is averaging 5.9 points, and 6-7 junior Danuel House at 13.8 points per contest.

Inside the Aggies feature 6-7 junior Jalen Jones, who is averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds, along with 6-9, 247 senior Kourtney Roberson, who is scoring 7.9 points per outing with an average of 5.3 rebounds per game.

Jones scored 18 points and pulled in nine rebounds vs. Tennessee and the Aggies are 4-0 in league play since he returned to the lineup after missing time with an ankle injury.

Tigers vs. Aggies: During their only previous visit to Auburn Arena the Aggies defeated Coach Tony Barbee’s Tigers 71-62 on Feb. 20, 2013. Pearl has never coached vs. Texas A&M and is 1-0 vs. A&M's coach Billy Kennedy.

K.T. Harrell, who is second in the SEC in scoring at 17.4 points per contest, has made at least one three-pointer in 15 consecutive games. The senior is hitting 48.5 percent of his threes in SEC games, making 16-33.

3 equals 2/3: Harrell along with Antoine Mason, who is scoring 13.9 points per game, and Cinmeon Bowers, who is averaging 13.5, are accounting for two-thirds of Auburn’s scoring average of 67.2 points per contest.

Cinmeon Bowers dunks for the Tigers.

Doubling Up: Bowers, who leads the SEC in rebounding with 11.5 per game, has a dozen doubles in 19 games as an Auburn player.

Challenge For Bowers: Pearls pointed out that Bowers will face a tough challenge from playing against Roberson of A&M. “I told Cinmeon he will be the best defensive center we have gone up against yet because he can guard Cinmeon on the perimeter and inside. Cinmeon can still do what he does, but this will be a really good player that we are going up against. A lot of centers are either shot blockers, or they can score. This guy can do a lot of things well so this will be a really good matchup inside.”

Up Next: The Tigers will travel to Knoxville for an 11 a.m. CST tipoff on Saturday vs. the Tennessee Volunteers.

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