Bruce Pearl (above) is headed into his second season as head coach of the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Trying to practice with a sense of urgency with the regular season beginning on Friday night vs. what is expected to be a strong opponent Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl is working to improve Auburn’s defensive play.
The Tigers and the Blazers will tip off at 8:30 p.m. at Auburn Arena in the second half of a doubleheader that starts with the Auburn women’s team playing UAB at 5 p.m. in its season opener.
Pearl’s Tigers tuned up for the regular season with a pair of exhibition games. They defeated Division II Brevard College 99-59 before having a close call last Thursday night vs. another Division II?opponent, the University of Indianapolis, in a game the Tigers won 114-109 in overtime.
“The transition defense was really bad,” Pearl told Inside the Auburn Tigers when asked about his team’s performance vs. Indianapolis. “We watch it on film and we practice it and stuff like that and we just talked about urgency. I talked to one of the coaches and I asked, “define urgency,” and we looked it up and talked about what exactly that means and told our team we are not practicing with urgency, we are not transitioning with urgency.
“When we press our four men aren’t on the ball with urgency,” Pearl pointed out. “We’re on the ball, getting back, but it’s not with the kind of urgency that we need.”
The Auburn coach said it is especially important that the Tigers play with more intensity against a UAB team that had success last season in the NCAA Tournament and is “bringing everybody back” this season.
“When we go out there and practice there is a reason why some of our veteran guys have a huge advantage–guys like Tahj (Tahj Shamsid-Deen, Cim (Cinmeon Bowers) and Don (Jordon Granger),” Pearl said. “They have been through a whole year and we don’t have to teach everything over to them.”
Cinmeon Bowers is the SEC's leading rebounder among returning players.
Physically, everyone should be ready to play on Friday for the Tigers other than junior guard Shamsid-Deen, who is not expected to return to action for several weeks as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
At Monday’s practice freshman guard Danjel Purifoy worked out with the scout team as the Tigers concentrated on what they expect to see from UAB. The four-star recruit has been practicing with the Tigers since the summer, but has not been academically cleared to play in games. Pearl said there hasn’t been a final decision made on Purifoy’s eligibility to participate in games for the 2015-16 season.
Friday’s contest vs. UAB is a sellout. Fans without tickets will be able to watch both the men's and women's games on-line with SEC Network+ coverage and WatchESPN.
The Blazers return all five starters from last season’s squad and have been picked to win Conference USA this season. Last season UAB defeated Iowa State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to UCLA.