Coach Bruce Pearl’s team had a great opportunity to defeat Alabama in the first matchup, but the Tide pulled out the game with a late surge for a 57-55 victory on Jan. 24th in Tuscaloosa.
“I think it’s going to make us play even harder because there is nobody in the locker room that doesn’t think we shouldn’t have won the game we played at Alabama,” Auburn senior guard K.T. Harrell says of Tuesday’s game that will be televised on ESPN2.
“I think it’s just going to make us play even harder, with a lot more energy,” says Harrell, who is leading the SEC in scoring at 17.8 points per contest. “We are going to execute the things that coach talks about because we really want to beat them.”
Pearl is still holding out hope for postseason play for his Tigers and notes Tuesday night’s game vs. Alabama is very important to give his team a chance to reach that goal. Auburn’s record is 11-12 overall and 4-8 in the SEC. Alabama, which is coming off a 76-68 home loss to Vandy, is 15-10 overall and 5-7 in the league.
“If we beat Alabama we are at .500,” Auburn’s first-year coach says. “You have to look at the rest of the games and say can we somehow win half of these games? I think it is always about matchups for us and there are certain things that we are good at and certain things that we struggle with. Alabama does a really good job of defending the three-ball, and we rely on the three-ball.
“(Levi) Randolph will cover K.T. Harrell, and he will work really hard to cover him,” Pearl points out. “That will be a great matchup once again. Alabama has really good size at almost every position and they use that size well. It will be a challenge.
“We played well at Alabama last time,” Pearl points out. “We didn’t make the plays down the stretch in the last game. Alabama made some plays. Two of their final four scores were offensive rebound put-backs.
“If we can rebound the ball we put ourselves in a better position,” he adds. “This will be a challenging one for us, but we will have a great environment. It is a game that means a lot to both teams.”
Auburn is coming off a 69-68 road win on Saturday vs. Georgia. The Tigers managed to win the game without Tahj Shamsid-Deen in the lineup with the help of a scoring spark from senior point guard K.C. Ross-Miller, who finished with 17 points.
K.C. Ross-Miller, a graduate student transfer from New Mexico State, shoots vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Harrell notes that Ross-Miller’s good play, which included a 21 points performance vs. Arkansas last Tuesday, is something the Tigers need.
“He has putting in that time,” Harrell points out. “I think in the beginning of the season he was sort of waiting on things to happen instead of making things happen. He has been in the gym a lot more on his own getting shots up, working on his game.
“I told him I think that is why he’s been playing the way he has been playing the last couple of games and we need that from him every game,” Harrell says. “He is just been working on his game making sure he is prepared.”
Randolph, a senior guard, leads Alabama in scoring at 14.8 points per game. The Tide’s number two scorer, junior guard Ricky Tarrant, is averaging 13.1 points per game, but according to Coach Anthony Grant he will not play due to a leg injury that has kept him out of the past five games.
Rodney Cooper, a senior guard, is averaging 10.1 points per contest. His rebound basket proved to be the game winner when the teams played in Tuscaloosa.
“You have to beat Alabama if you are going to be able to build that foundation,” Pearl says. “You have to be able to beat your rival. Alabama is really good, and I know they have won 15 games and they are not above .500 in SEC play, but that has a lot more to do with the league than it does with Alabama.
“I read about a bad home loss to Vanderbilt, and they might be young, but they are really talented,” the Auburn coach says. “The bottom of our league is really good. If we don’t beat them there will be reasons why. If we do beat them that will help us build that foundation.”Worth Noting: Harrell is ranked sixth nationally in three-point shooting at 45.2 percent. He has scored 20 or more points in 13 games this season.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Antoine Mason, who missed the practices prior to the Georgia game to be with his ailing father, is back in school and working out with the Tigers. Pearl says Anthony Mason, a former NBA star, has made progress on his recovery from a heart attack. Mason returned to the team on Saturday and contributed to the victory over the Bulldogs.
DawgGone Tickets: Auburn’s rematch vs. Georgia to close the regular season on March 7th is a sellout.
Up Next: The Tigers will travel to Lexington to take on unbeaten Kentucky at 5 p.m. CST on Saturday.