Photography: Jeremy Brevard

With Two Starters Out the Auburn Basketball Tigers Will Play Host to Cliff Ellis And Coastal Carolina

Down two starters, Coach Bruce Pearl will send his Tigers back into action vs. the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina on Thursday night.

Coach Cliff Ellis will make a return trip to Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.--Down two starters but with one veteran returning, the Auburn Tigers will try to bounce back from a disappointing Monday night loss when Coach Cliff Ellis brings his Coastal Carolina basketball team to Auburn Arena.

Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CST (SEC Network TV). The Tigers will play without starting forward Horace Spencer and starting guard Bryce Brown, but are expected to have senior guard T.J. Dunans back in the mix. Both were suspended indefinitely on Wednesday by Coach Bruce Pearl after being arrested on misdemeanor possession of marijuana charges.

Dunans was ill on Monday and unable to play in a 72-71 loss to Boston College at Madison Square Garden in New York City that dropped Auburn’s record to 6-2.

T.J. DUNANS (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

T.J. Dunans is shown at practice.

Coastal Carolina is 5-6 following a 70-67 win vs. North Carolina Central on Saturday. The Chanticleers, who are led by Ellis, Auburn’s former head coach, have won three of their last four games.

“Coastal Carolina is an awfully good team,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “They have played a tough schedule as Cliff always plays. They have challenged us the last couple of years. They beat us two years ago in here. We played really, really well, and they got us at the end, and then last year we survived over there. We managed to build a pretty significant lead and hung on.

“He’s got some new pieces this year,” Pearl said. “They led Alabama at halftime and it was a close game through the second half.

“One of their strengths is rebounding margin,” Pearl pointed out. “They are over plus eight on the boards. They average about 15 or 16 offensive rebounds a game and we struggle to rebound the ball.” Auburn is minus 4.7 in rebounding margin after being dominated on the boards by Boston College.

“Jaylen Shaw is a South Carolina transfer that is quick on quick and presents you with some real challenges, and Elijah Wilson had 25 against us last year,” Pearl said. “He’s their leading scorer and he can take over a game offensively.

“We’ll be without our best defender in Bryce Brown and we’ll be without our best rebounder in Horace Spencer so it’ll complicate things even further,” the coach added.

Wilson leads Coastal Carolina scoring at 15.7 points per game. The 6-4, 205 senior guard is averaging 3.9 rebounds.

Shaw, a 6-4, 190 junior guard, is averaging 12.9 points and 4.8 assists.

Demario Beck, a 6-8, 220 junior foward, is the top rebounder with 7.8 per game and he is averaging 11.1 points.

Danjel Purifoy, a 6-7 redshirt freshman forward, leads Auburn in scoring at 16.4 points per game and is adding 4.9 rebounds per contest.

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Danjel Purifoy is seventh in the SEC in scoring after putting up 27 points in Auburn's last game.

Freshman guard Mustapha Heron leads the Tigers in rebounding at 6.6 per contest while scoring 15.4 points per outing. Auburn’s other double figures scorer, freshman point guard Jared Harper, is averaging 11.1 points and 2.6 assists.

Another freshman, 6-7, 217 forward Anfernee McLemore, could see expanded playing time with Spencer being suspended. Devin Waddell, a 6-5, 227 senior, is a possibility, too, to help with the rebounding and defense.

With Brown suspended and T.J. Lang less than full speed due to ankle and knee problems, walk-on freshman Will Maccoy or sophomore New Williams could see action at guard. The Tigers are also likely to play backup point guard Ronnie Johnson in the two-guard role.

Asked how he expects his team will respond to a last second loss to Boston College and the absence of two starters, Pearl said, “I think there’s a lot to respond to this wee, and so we’re just going to have to see how it goes.”

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