Tyler Harris (above) is a key peformer for Bruce Pearl's Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--Two basketball teams in need of a win will square off Saturday night at Auburn Arena in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Tipoff is set for shortly after 7 p.m. CST as Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers, who are 9-10 this season, take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have a 9-10 record.
Both teams will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak. Auburn fell 80-63 on Wednesday night at Ole Miss while the Cowboys lost 69-65 at home to No. 17 Baylor that same evening.
“We are excited about the challenge and excited about being one of the 10 teams from the SEC that are able to represent our conference,” Pearl said. “I understand how important it is in the big picture of things. It is getting close to March Madness and bracketology is alive and well at this time of the year.”
No. 9 ranked West Virginia will play at Florida to start the challenge at 11 a.m. CST along with Vanderbilt at Texas. At 1 p.m. Ole Miss will play at Kansas State, Tennessee will play at TCU and No. 14 Iowa State will travel to No. 5 Texas A&M. At 3 p.m. Texas Tech will play at Arkansas and at 4 p.m. No. 1?Oklahoma will play at LSU.
The evening matchups include Georgia on the road vs. the Baylor Bears at 5 p.m., No. 20 Kentucky at No. 4 Kansas at 6 p.m. and the Auburn-OSU matchup, which will be televised on ESPN2 to conclude the series of games.
“For the SEC to be able to compete against the Big 12 is a big opportunity for us,” Pearl said. “The Big 12 in the regular season for the last few years has been one of the premier conferences in the country where the majority of their teams make the NCAA tournament.
“This Oklahoma State team has been a consistent participant in NCAA play,” Pearl pointed out. “As far as our matchup is concerned, they are a really good team. Their record may not completely reflect that in the sense that in the last six or seven games the only game they have won has been Kansas. That is because they lost to Oklahoma, at Texas, at Baylor, and at Iowa State, and places like that that are very difficult to win at. They are a good basketball team.
Jawun Evans is averaging 12.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds for the Cowboys.
“They have a great freshman point guard,”?Pearl said. “He might be the best freshman point guard in the country. That is no surprise, and everyone knew that coming in with Jawun Evans from Dallas. He will be fun to watch. He is a tough cover, and he has a tremendous ability to get to the basket, great passer, tremendous vision, playmaker, and they run a lot of middle ball screen stuff that we struggled dearly with against Ole Miss and Florida. We are going to have to figure out better ways of containing them with that middle ball screen action.”
Auburn and OSU have played just three times with the Tigers having two wins. This will be the first time the Tigers and Cowboys have met in Auburn.
“It is tough, in league play, for Oklahoma State or for Auburn to be in a position where we are at .500, or in our case below .500,” Pearl said. “The losses wear you down. They just eat you up. My focus with the team is to get us to continue to play hard, and to continue to improve. We took a step or two back this week.”
Senior forward Tyler Harris, who is Auburn’s No. 2 scorer (15.2 points per game) and No. 2 rebounder (8.1 per game), said the Tigers see this as an important game.
“We are really effective at home, and we need another win to get back to playing in the rhythm we had before this two game losing streak,” the senior said. “We really need this game. Coming home and playing in front of our crowd is really going to help us.”