Pearl Lines Up Tough Non-Conference Games

Outside the SEC the Auburn basketball team will have multiple challenging contests on its 2015-16 schedule, which is the way the head coach wants it.

Auburn, Ala.--Second-year Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl announced his team’s non-conference schedule on Wednesday and said his philosophy will continue to be for the Tigers to face tough opposition outside of SEC play.

The Tigers will take on UAB at home on November 13th and then play a return game at Auburn Arena on Nov. 17th vs. Colorado. Colorado defeated Auburn at Boulder last season while the Tigers are playing UAB, a 2015 NCAA Tournament team, for the first time since 1999.

Other home non-conference games are set for Nov. 20th vs. Georgia Southern, Northwestern State on Nov. 27th and Dec. 15th vs. Mercer. Northwestern State was the nation’s top scoring team last season while Georgia Southern finished 22-9.

Auburn will also play at home vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 30th as the Cowboys visit for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

The Tigers will play a return game on Dec. 2nd vs. Coach Cliff Ellis and his 2015 NCAA Tournament team at Coastal Carolina that won vs. the Tigers at Auburn Arena last year.

Another return game is set for Dec. 19th in Cincinnati when the Tigers face Xavier, a 2015 NCAA Tournament team they upset last year.

Auburn will have a rematch vs. Middle Tennessee State in a contest that will be played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 12th. That is the court where the Tigers made a run to the SEC Tournament semi-finals in March.

“In the non-conference, you get to send your team a message, and that is whether you believe in them or not,” Pearl said. “If you schedule soft, and you are not willing to travel, you send them a message that I don’t think we are very good, and we need to play the soft schedule, and I’m not doing it.

“I didn’t do it last year and as a result we were 8-5 in non-conference, and that is just not good enough to get it done,” the coach noted.”

The Tigers will travel to Hawaii to participate in the Diamond Head Classic with games on Dec. 22, Dec. 23rd and on Christmas. The event features Oklahoma, Northern Iowa, Harvard, BYU, Hawaii, New Mexico State and Washington State. The schedule for the tournament has not been set. Harvard, BYU, Northern Iowa and Oklahoma played in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Kareem Canty (left), who redshirted last season as a transfer from Marshall, is expected to be one of the key players for Auburn this season.

“When Jay Jacobs asked me what it’s going to take to become a Top 25 program, one of the first things I told him was we have to schedule like one,” said Pearl, whose Tigers could play as many as ten 2015 postseason tournament teams in non-conference play and up to seven opponents that made the NCAA Tournament..

“I believe in putting our team in harm’s way. I think that philosophy enabled us to win at LSU and at Georgia and play well on the road. We played well at Alabama. We played well at Tennessee. We played well at Missouri. We were competitive.”

The Tigers will be relying heavily on newcomers this season after losing key players from last season's team, including leading scorer K.T. Harrell, who was one of the top players in the SEC.

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