Danjel Purifoy (above) i averaging a team-leading 16.5 points per game for the Tigers.
Tipoff for Auburn’s second basketball game in the Cancun Challenge is 8 p.m. CST and it will be televised on the SEC Network from Auburn Arena.
The Colonels will bring a 1-1 record into the contest following a 78-69 home loss in overtime to UNC-Wilmington. Eastern Kentucky won its opener 97-87 over IUPUI.
EKU is led by 6-9, 235 pound sophomore Nick Mayo, who is averaging 22 points and 7.5 rebounds. Asante Gist, a 5-11, 185 freshman point guard, is averaging 18 points and 3.5 assists.
“Nick Mayo has a chance to be pro,” said Pearl, whose Tigers are off to a 2-0 start. “He is a very talented inside player that they have done a wonderful job developing. He plays center, but he plays like a forward. He can do things inside and out.
“They have got a little New York City point guard that in two games has shot 29 free throws,” Pearl noted.
“In fact, in two games this team has shot 87 free throws,” Pearl said. “They shoot it from free and they shoot it from three. They are well-coached.
“Their coach is a disciple of Rick Pitino and I‘ve always said that he’s been the toughest matchup that I have ever had and I’ve coached against most of them so they do good stuff and they’ll expose more things.
“We will finally see some man-to-man (defense) and they play a 3-2 matchup (zone defense),” Auburn’s coach added. “We haven’t seen man-to-man yet really so that’ll be another new test for us.
“Overall, looking back to Georgia State, I was pleased with our effort and our energy,” Pearl said. “I thought it was the best we have played off the bench in a while.”
Auburn got 19 points apiece from freshman point guard Jared Harper and redshirt freshman forward Danjel Purifoy in Monday night’s 83-65 victory over Georgia State. The Tigers also got 17 points and 17 rebounds from substitutes in that game.
The reserves also helped with the defensive effort, something Pearl said has been solid so far. “I would say that we’re farther ahead defensively at this time of the year than my first two years.
“Now at the end of my first year, we were really good defensively. I mean, if you go back and look at the last month, we really guarded. Part of it was schematic, but I think that we’re farther along as far as our concepts are concerned.”
Jared Harper is averaging 14.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Harper said defense was a key to Auburn's win vs. Georgia State. "We locked in defensively," he said of AU's play in the second half.
The freshman point guard said the Tigers are enjoying the program's best start since 2011. It is great," he said, adding, "We have great chemistry, play well together and have a lot of fun."
Eastern Kentucky has shot 50 more free throws than their opponents in two games this season and Colonels have made 79.3 percent of their foul shots. EKU is hitting 39.0 percent of their field goals and 37.5 percent of their threes while opponents have hit 45.1 percent from the field and 37.5 on threes.
The Colonels are -3.0 in rebound margin and -2.0 in turnover margin as they visit Auburn Arena.
Auburn leads the series vs. Eastern Kentucky 3-1. The teams last meet on Dec. 28, 1991 in Chattanooga with the Tigers winning 93-71.