Auburn Basketball Game 29 Preview/Notes

Coach Bruce Pearl's Tigers head west to play at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

K.T. Harrell (above) is averaging 17.7 points per contest for the Tigers.

While Texas A&M looks to continue its run to the NCAA Basketball Tournament the Auburn Tigers are looking to keep from getting run over by the Aggies on Saturday night at Texas A&M.

Tipoff for the SEC matchup is set for 7:30 p.m. CST at Reed Arena. The game will be televised on the SEC Network as Auburn (12-16 overall, 4-11 SEC) looks to snap a three-game losing streak. Texas A&M brings a 19-8 overall record and a 10-5 SEC mark into the contest.

Saturday night’s game is a rematch. The Aggies won at Auburn on January 27th, taking a 71-61 decision as Danuel House nailed five treys in leading the visitors in scoring with 22 points. Jalen Jones added 13 points while Alex Robinson scored 12 points.

Auburn was led in scoring by Antoine Mason with 16 points while Cinmeon Bowers contributed 12 points and eight rebounds. AU’s top scorer, K.T. Harrell, was only able to get seven shots launched vs. the Aggies and finished with 11 points. Mason won't be in College Station for the rematch. He is in New York City with his family and was there when his father, former NBA player Anthony Mason, died following complications after having a heart attack.

Texas A&M’s size advantage was a big factor in the win vs. the Tigers, outscoring Auburn 42-14 in the points in the paint category.

“We will play a little bigger against A&M,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, noting that he will try to give seven-foot-two freshman Trayvon Reed more playing time after the Tigers struggled to rebound in a Tuesday night home loss to LSU.

Trayvon Reed has gained a dozen pounds since joining the team in December and is up to 232 pounds, Pearl said.

“I was very disappointed in our transition defense,” Pearl said of his team’s play vs. LSU. “A lot of it had to do with what we did in the offensive end. K.C. Ross-Miller and Malcolm Canada, our break-down point guards, they are not shooters, they are break-down guys and they both like to get to the rim, but when they get to the rim, Antoine Mason, K.T. Harrell and T.J. Lang are not rotating back at all and so it is feast or famine. They go in there and score, they go in there and get fouled or they go in there and fall down and then we are not rotated back. It is not an acceptable breakdown.

“They ability of teams getting to the rim against us has to do with we are not blocking shots, we are not rotating over there physically and that is a concern,” Pearl added. “I would say that I am more confident that if we can get all five guys back that we can, as effective as you can, guard their stuff and not have so many paint touches.

“I think a lot of our paint touches had to do with making no plays in the press, getting beat in the press and then transition,” Pearl said. “I would say half of LSU’s points came in that way. It is still my fault, but it was not just the drop-back defense’s fault.”

House, a 6-7 guard, is leading the Aggies in scoring at 15.4 points per game. Jones, a 6-7 forward, is scoring 13.3 points per outing while putting in 6.4 rebounds.

Six-foot-five point guard Alex Caruso is averaging 9.2 points, 5.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds.

Kourtney Roberson, a 6-9, 250-pound forward, is scoring 8.9 points per game while pulling 6.0 rebounds. The other expected starter, 6-5 guard Jordan Green, is averaging 5.5 points per contest.

Texas A&M and Ole Miss are tied for third place in the SEC standings. Kentucky is 15-0 followed by Arkansas at 12-3. Georgia and LSU are one game behind A&M and Ole Miss with 9-6 league marks.

Injured Guard: Injured sophomore guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen won praise from Pearl early in the season as the coach called him the Tigers’ best defender. Since he was lost for the season due to shoulder injuries the Tigers have struggled to force turnovers in their full-court defense and have been giving up points at too high of a rate to win games.

Freshman Guard: Six-foot-seven freshman guard T.J. Lang, who is averaging 1.8 points, 0.9 rebounds and 10 minutes per game, could make the start in place of Mason. Lang made his first college start vs. Georgia.

Tahj Shamsid-Deen underwent surgery on his left shouldeer last week. He is expected to have another surgery done this spring to repair his right shoulder.

Pearl said, “Sometimes I look out there and go, ‘Why even press? Why even extend our defense?’ Because if I have Tahj Shamsid-Deen out there for 25-28 minutes, that is why. He can put great pressure on the ball and we all sort of pick up a little bit. He is our best communicator. He is always in the right spot. He was really well coached in high school and it kind of carries over.”

Tiger Trio: Harrell at 17.7 points per game, Mason at 15.1 and Cinmeon Bowers at 12.9 are scoring an average of two-third of Auburn’s points. Led by Bowers, the SEC’s top rebounder at 10.3 per game, the trio has accounted for 47.2 percent of Auburn’s rebounds.

Up Next: The Tigers will return to action with an 8 p.m. tipoff at Missouri to close their SEC road schedule.


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