Kareem Canty (above) is Auburn's leading scorer at 19.0 points per game, but will try to bounce back after scoring just three points on Wednesday.
Honolulu, Hawaii--Looking to return home with a pair of wins at the Diamond Head Classic, the Auburn basketball Tigers will have to defeat the host school on Christmas Day to make that happen.
Auburn, 6-4, will taken on the University of Hawaii basketball team in a game scheduled to tip off shortly after 5:30 p.m. CST on Friday at the Stan Sheriff Center. TV coverage is scheduled on ESPN2.
The Rainbow Warriors will bring an 8-2 record into the contest after nearly upsetting unbeaten and No. 3 ranked Oklahoma on Wednesday night, dropping an 84-81 decision in the second semi-final game of the eight-team tournament. Earlier in the day Auburn fell 69-51 to Harvard.
The Christmas Day matchup will be just the third time the Tigers have played Hawaii in basketball. Both of those games were in Honolulu. The Tigers won 84-57 in the championship game of the 1998 United Airlines Tip-Off Classic and in 2011 Auburn was a 65-62 winner in a first round game of the Diamond Head Classic.
Coach Bruce Pearl said after the loss that he doesn’t expect junior guard T.J. Dunans to be available to play vs. the Rainbow Warriors. Dunans, who is averaging 12.4 points per game, hurt his knee at the end of the first half in the Harvard game.
In Auburn’s six wins, Dunans has averaged 16 points per game. In the four losses he has averaged 7.0 points.
Dunans has been playing a dual role as a shooting guard and the backup point guard to Kareem Canty due to an injury to Tahj Shamsid-Deen, which has left the former starter sidelined the last two games. It is not known when, or if, Shamsid-Deen will be cleared to play this season.
“We will figure it out,” Pearl said about who his backup point guard will be for the Hawaii game. “I don’t know what we will do.”
Patrick Keim, a sophomore walk-on, played three minutes in relief of Canty at the end of the second half vs. Harvard. In preseason the Tigers used another walk-on, freshman Zach Allison, at point guard while Keim recovered from a knee problem.
T.J. Dunans is a six-foot-five junior guard.
In the loss to Harvard the Tigers struggled to score, but Cinmeon Bowers managed to contribute 17 points and pulled in nine rebounds. The senior forward is averaging 13.2 points and 10 rebounds per game and has scored in double figures in eight straight contests.
After back-to-back games in which he scored just four points, Tyler Harris stepped up his play with 12 points and 12 rebounds vs. Harvard. It was his fifth double-double of the season.
Hawaii comes into the Auburn game after nearly posting its first victory vs. a top five ranked team in 10 years. Instead, Oklahoma escaped with a three-point win despite 6-3 junior guard Roderick Bobbitt nearly tripling his scoring average with a career-high 32 points. He added six assists and three steals.
Stefan Jankovic, a 6-11, 235 junior who transferred from Missouri, scored 17 points vs. the Sooners and is averaging 14.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Hawaii’s leading scorer for the season, 6-5 junior guard Aaron Valdes, is averaging 16.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Hawaii’s two other expected starters, 6-7 junior forward Mike Thomas and 6-1 senior guard Quincy Smith, are averaging 6.7 points. The top reserve is 6-3, 195 sophomore guard Isaac Fleming, who is averaging 11.5 points per game.
The Tigers and Rainbow Warriors have one common opponent this season. Hawaii defeated Coastal Carolina 74-63 in Honolulu on Nov. 15th. Auburn won 81-78 at Coastal Carolina on Dec. 2nd.
Hawaii received bad news on Tuesday when the hoops program learned it had received a three-year NCAA probation related to the activities of the former coaching staff. Penalties included loss of two scholarships, a postseason ban in 2016-17, recruiting restrictions and a fine.
First-year head coach Eran Ganot has the Rainbow Warriors off to their best start in 11 seasons, prompting Pearl to call his team’s assignment a “daunting” one in its final game before beginning SEC play on Jan. 2nd vs. Tennessee.