Cinmeon Bowers (above) is scheduled to be back in action vs. LSU.
Auburn, Ala.--The slumping Auburn basketball team will try to snap a three-game losing streak as the LSU Tigers visit for a Tuesday contest featuring national player of the year candidate Ben Simmons.
Tipoff is set for shortly after 6 p.m. CST at Auburn Arena with TV coverage on the SEC Network.
Simmons, a 6-10, 240-pound forward from Australia, is the likely No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. He is averaging 19.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
Unfortunately for Coach Bruce Pearl, his team will have to deal with a roster full of talented LSU players.
“Simmons is obviously the first pick in the draft,” Pearl says. “Craig Victor (6-9, 235 sophomore, 13.0 points, 6.3 rebounds) transferred from Arizona. They only recruit five-star kids.
Ben Simmons came to LSU from Melbourne, Australia and has lived up to expectations.
(Keith) Hornsby (6-4, 208, 12.9 points, 2.4 rebounds) is a senior and didn’t join them until late December, and he’s a great, great shooter, tough kid, real glue guy. (Jalyn) Patterson (6-1, 183, sophomore, 5.2 points, 2.0 assists) is a pro. Let me quantify that. Patterson is a very valuable point guard, off guard, highly recruited kid out of Atlanta that is a terrific scorer.
“(Tim) Quarterman (6-6, 190, junior, 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds), I think, has got a chance to be a pro. (Antonio) Blakeney (6-4, 190, freshman, 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds) was a McDonald’s All-American. Josh Gray (6-1, 180, senior, 6.5 points, 2.2 rebounds) was the junior college player of the year and last year one of their top two or three scorers, and he is their seventh man. I’m not sure who my seventh man is.”
LSU brings a 13-8 record into the contest and is 6-2 in the SEC. Auburn is 9-11 overall and 3-5 in the league.
“Most of the time you should come to the arena to watch your team play and root for your team and be a part of that,” Pearl says. “There are times when you come to an arena to watch a team play you do take notice of an opponent. When I was at Tennessee, Kevin Durant came in one time in just his freshman year and got a chance to see him play, which was just a rare experience. How many true road games did he play his only year in college basketball? The very same could be true of Ben Simmons.
“He’s a very talented player, and he’s one of those guys that makes everybody else on his team better, and I think that’s the reason why he’s being talked about as a potential No. 1 pick, because on a professional team, that’s a rare commodity,” Pearl says.
“I was thinking about, again, some of the criticism that LSU is receiving for not doing better, and I point to their January schedule where they lost at Texas A&M, at Florida and at the buzzer to Oklahoma. I don’t know how many teams would have won any of those games.”
Bruce Pearl's Tigers will be trying to bounce back from a loss to Oklahoma State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
Cinmeon Bowers, who was held out of action in Auburn’s 74-63 loss to Oklahoma State because the head coach was not pleased with the forward’s attitude, is expected to play vs. LSU.
Bowers has averaged 10.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, but has been inconsistent. Asked if the good plays the senior makes outweigh the bad ones, Pearl said, “That’s a great question. The good still outweighs the bad. We know Cim is a player that giveth and taketh away on the court, but there are certain things that we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without him.
“I feel like this being his senior year I think he’s pressing a little bit. I think he sees May coming sooner than later, and then I think he’s a little worried about life after college and what’s going to happen just like a lot of other seniors.
“Cim certainly has been disappointed that we’ve not been able to be more successful that we’ve not won more. It’s worn on him for two years. This is Tyler (Harris’s) first year of losing in college. This is only Kareem’s (Canty) second year of playing in college. He didn’t win at Marshall, and we’re not winning here like we want to. Cim had really not experienced not winning. He won in junior college, he won in high school, so it’s wearing on him. Let’s just see how the season ends, let’s see how it progresses and let’s see how he can finish up. One of the things that I’m most focused on, again, he’s 15 hours away from his degree and leaving Auburn in really good standing, and that’s what I would like to see for him.”
LSU leads the series 84-66, but lost the previous matchup to the Tigers 73-70 in overtime last season at the SEC Tournament.