Danjel Purifoy (above) is off to a strong start this season for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--While the Auburn Tigers look like they could be short two starters for a second straight basketball game, they won’t be shorter on Sunday as they take on the Mercer Bears.
Tipoff is set for noon CST at Auburn Arena as the Tigers face the Mercer Bears in a game that will be televised by the SEC Network. Auburn’s roster will include newcomer Austin Wiley, a 6-11 center, who joined the team on Friday after graduating early from high school.
Austin Wiley is a five-star recruit.
Coach Bruce Pearl handed out an “indefinite” suspension for a pair of sophomore starters, guard Bryce Brown and forward Horace Spencer, who did not practice with the team on Friday. Pearl says fans can expect to see Wiley get playing time vs. Mercer.
Auburn, which is 7-2 after dominating Coastal Carolina 117-72 on Thursday night, will be playing its final non-conference home game on Sunday.
Mercer will bring a 5-5 record into the contest after losing its previous game 90-47 last Saturday at Clemson. The Tigers and Bears have played 32 times dating back to 1906 with each team having 16 victories.
In last year’s matchup, a 78-71 Auburn victory, the Tigers were led in scoring by a pair of players who are not on this season’s team. Kareem Canty scored 21 vs. the Bears while Tyler Harris added 20 points and 11 rebounds. T.J. Dunans, a senior this season, added 14 points for the Tigers.
The high scorer in that game, Jestin Lewis with 28 for Mercer, is gone. This year the Bears are led in scoring by Ria’n Holland, a 6-0 junior guard averaging 17.7 points per game. Demetre Rivers, a 6-8 junior guard, is averaging 12.8 points.
“Mercer has lost five games, and they have lost five games to five really good basketball teams,” Pearl says. “Three or four are NCAA Tournament teams. Everybody they have lost to will be a postseason team so they are very hard to evaluate at this time.
“If you remember last year, it was a two-possession game the entire game,” Pearl says. “They led for much of the first half. They will play us both man and zone and some junk. I expect to see a lot of zone. Bob (Coach Hoffman) is known throughout the country as one of the better X and O guys.”
Auburn is coming off its most impressive offensive performance of the season after matching the SEC record with 21 made three-pointers on Thursday night. Danjel Purifoy led the charge with 27 points while Mustapha Heron added 17 on a night in which 10 players scored.
AU’s offensive sets helped the Tigers finish the game shooting 55.6 percent from the field while making 21 assists.
“I thought the movement was good,” Pearl says of his team’s offense. “I thought the turns were good. We made shots. Not every shot we took was a good shot, but we made them.
“We are in the Top 25 in the country in pace,”?he points out. “Mercer is in the top five in the country with one of the slowest paces. They are going to attack our pressure and score early, but if they don’t have numbers they will shoot in the last 10 seconds of the shot clock every time, and that’s challenging so time of possession will be all on their side.”
Following the Tigers vs. Bears matchup the Auburn women's basketball team, which is 8-2, will take on 10-0 and 24th-ranked Virginia Tech at 4 p.m. at Auburn Arena.