Tyler Harris (avove) is Auburn's second-leading scorer this season.
Auburn, Ala.--A pair of basketball teams needing an SEC victory will meet Tuesday night in Nashville as Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers travel to Memorial Gym to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Tipoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. CST and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Vanderbilt is 0-3 in the league and 8-7 overall. Auburn is 1-2 in the SEC and 7-7 overall.
Auburn is coming off perhaps its poorest performance of the season in a 76-61 road loss at Missouri on Saturday. Earlier that day the Commodores gave unbeaten South Carolina a scare, but the Gamecocks held on for a 69-65 home victory.
Asked about his team’s confidence with the Tigers not playing as well as they were earlier in the season prior to injuries suffered by Tahj Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunans, Pearl said, “It’s challenged, but I think they understand the situation. I think the confidence level isn’t great because we aren’t playing great. Not so much the results, but just that we can play better basketball.
“We have had too many unforced turnovers and just too many guys not playing as well as they are capable of playing,” Pearl said. “The scouting report is out so there is a lot of heavy scouting report out on our guys, and so they take them away from what they do well. Then, do they have the game and the ability to be able to still be effective knowing the scouting report is out? I think that is part of what that challenge is.
“We’ve had some next man up that has taken place,”?Pearl added. “When Tahj got hurt, next man up Kareem Canty. When T.J. Dunans got hurt, next man up Bryce Brown. The problem would then be who’s in behind those guys? And, so then as a result we are really getting hurt off the bench not having enough contribution.”
Vandy features a starting lineup with two seven-footers. Junior Luke Kornet is averaging 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds while junior Damian Jones is averaging 13.3 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Damian Jones has been a force for Vanderbilt near the basket.
Vandy’s leading scorer, Wade Baldwin, is averaging 14.6 points per contest. The 6-3 sophomore guard is expected to play as a reserve. The starting guards are 6-2 sophomore Riley LaChance (9.4 points, 2.9 assists) and 6-5 sophomore Matthew Fisher-Davis (8.8 points, 3.6 rebounds).
The Commodores have dominated the series in recent years with 10 consecutive wins. Last year the Tigers fell 64-52 to the Commodores in Nashville. Pearl is 8-5 as a coach vs. Vandy. The Auburn coach noted that the first of his team’s two matchups vs. the Commodores this year is a challenging one.
“The interesting thing about the stat line with Vanderbilt, everybody talks about their defense,” Pearl said. “Teams are shooting less than 40 percent against them. They’re still guarding. We had a hard time scoring against them, and we guarded them awfully hard last year. My goodness.
“You do go back and watch tape and you do understand why we appreciated how hard last year’s team played,” Pearl said. “Boy, we guarded as hard as we could guard. We were terribly undersized, but what we had was we had four guards, and sometimes offensively we could spread some people out, break people down and we were a matchup problem for some because of our four guards and being so small.
“I think with Vanderbilt, if you let them just run their stuff, let them run their patterns and don’t disrupt them at all, they can really cut you apart,” Pearl pointed out. “Like for example in their first three (SEC) games, they played really well against LSU at home, but LSU is arguably one of the top two or three most talented teams in the league. Then they played South Carolina and Arkansas, and both of those teams are known for their half court defense where they disrupt you so in some ways Vanderbilt has had three tough matchups for them. We will try to disrupt, but we are not quite as good at it as say Arkansas or South Carolina.”
News and Notes: Pearl said that freshman guard New Williams is making progress recovering from his knee injury and was able to play vs. Missouri for two reasons. “One, he continued to make progress with the trainer, and two, he got a different brace where he felt much more confident and the trainer felt confident,” Pearl said. “New’s issue is that his patellar shifts, not his knee, just the kneecap, and with the combination of the brace and some time off from the Hawaii game--it was about two weeks--that they felt like he is okay. He’s not 100 percent, but he can play, and so as time goes on he continues to strengthen.”...This is Auburn’s second appearance in Nashville. The Tigers lost 88-81 in overtime to Middle Tennessee State on Dec. 12th at Bridgestone Arena, where they will return in March for the SEC Tournament...In that game vs. Middle Tennessee State, Cinmeon Bowers pulled in 19 rebounds, the high for an Auburn player this year. That was the first of five consecutive double figures rebounding games for Bowers, who hasn’t reached double figures in Auburn’s previous five outings.
New Williams has played in seven games this season.
Tyler Harris has scored at least 20 points in five games this year, including his last two vs. South Carolina (22) and Missouri (21)...Seven-foot center Trayvon Reed was not with the team or at Auburn during fall semester for what Pearl said were personal reasons, but is expected to be in classes this week. Asked if he had an update on the sophomore’s status with the team, Pearl said, “No, but school starts Wednesday, and so as a result of school starting Wednesday, we’re getting closer to an update.”...Injured junior guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen has been out of action with a shoulder problem since the Xavier game on Dec. 19th. Asked about the junior’s health status, Pearl said, “No finality. He’s got one more exam when we get back from Vanderbilt so I would expect some finality on both of those when we get back from Vanderbilt.”...Vandy is allowing opponents to make just 37.4 percent of their field goals, which ranks 10th nationally. Auburn is making 44.3 percent of its field goals while opponents are shooting 45.7 percent from the field vs. the Tigers...Auburn is hitting 38.1 percent of its three-point tries and leads the lead in treys per game at 9.9. Opponents have made 33.7 percent of their threes vs. the Tigers.