MUSTAPHA HERON (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl Noted His Basketball Team Really Needs A Victory Vs. Ole Miss

The Tigers will be back at Auburn Arena on Saturday for a Southeastern Conference home game vs. the Ole Miss Rebels.

Freshman Mustapha Heron is Auburn's top scorer so far this season.

Auburn, Ala.--A pair of teams looking for their first SEC basketball victory will tip off shortly after 5 p.m. CST on Saturday as the Auburn Tigers play host to Ole Miss.

Auburn takes a 10-4 record into the contest after dropping a home game to Georgia, 96-84, and losing on the road at Vanderbilt 80-61 on Wednesday.

Ole Miss, which is 9-5, lost 99-76 at home vs. Kentucky to open league play and fell 70-63 at Florida on Tuesday.

“We are clearly at a crossroads early in the season as far as what the future is going to hold,” Coach Bruce Pearl said about his Tigers. “Is this going to be a postseason team, is this going to be a team that gets better throughout the season? Or is it going to show its youth?

“Keep in mind that one of the factors with playing as well as we did early is the coach has the ability, knowing the young personnel, to put them in the right spots and to get them to go to their strengths and stay away from their weaknesses,”?Pearl said.

“Over a period of time books (scouting reports) get written and you get exposed for what you can do,”?he pointed out. “Then the question is, can you then make the adjustments as either a coach or as a player to be able to, despite of the fact that the scouting report is out there on you, continue to be successful? That is probably where we face ourselves right now.

“Then, of course, in the league there just aren’t enough bad teams in this league,”?he added. “We’re no longer a bad team. We used to be, but we’re not, but we don’t play against very many bad teams in the league. I think you could see that in the first two games and you will see it again Saturday.”

The Rebels are led by 6-9, 240 senior forward Sebastian Saiz. The Spaniard is averaging 15.7 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Michael Thomas Shroyer / USA Today Images

Sebastian Saiz has 18 career double-doubles at Ole Miss.

DeAndre Burnett, a 6-2 junior guard, is the leading scorer for Ole Miss at 19.1 points per game. He hit a national-best 25 consecutive free throws to open the season.

Cullen, a six-foot-four graduate transfer guard from the University of New Mexico who is a junior in eligibility, is averaging 10.9 points per outing.

The other starters are 6-7 forward Justas Furmanavicius, a junior who is averaging 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, along with 6-7 junior forward Marcanvis Hymon (3.8 points, 4.3 rebounds). Backup guard Terence Davis, a 6-4 sophomore, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.2 rebounds.

“Ole Miss leads the league in rebounding,” Pearl said. “Burnett sat out last year from Miami and can light it up. Saiz is a double-double guy and he’s going to go up against our young inside players. We are going to have to game plan for him.

“They block shots, they rebound, they’re physical,” Auburn’s coach added. “They play man, they play 1-3-1, they run a 2-2-1 into a dropback 2-3, they press on the under-basket out of bounds, they press some on the side. They’re a challenging preparation. There is a lot going on.”

Pearl added, “I am curious to see how we come out on Saturday because we have got our backs up against the wall.”

Standing-room seats are available for the contest that will be televised on the SEC Network.

Freshman Mustapha Heron leads the Tigers in scoring (15.9 points) and rebounding (6.4) while two other freshmen join him in double figures for points per game with Danjel Purifoy at 14.2 and Jared Harper at 13.0.

Auburn Hoops Notes: The Auburn Sports Network radio broadcast with Rod Bramblett and Sonny Smith can be heard on Sirius 83, XM 190...Auburn leads the series 73-58, but Ole Miss has won its last eight games vs. the Tigers. The Rebels have a 3-2 record in games at Auburn Arena and AU leads the series 49-14 in games played at Auburn...Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has a 221-131 record in 11 seasons at Ole Miss...The Rebels won the last meeting 69-59 on Feb. 20th at Auburn...Auburn freshman point guard Jared Harper is second in the SEC in steals with 1.71 per game while freshman forward Danjel Purifoy is third at 1.43 peer game....Purifoy is fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage at 87.3...Freshman forward Anferee McLemore is hitting 63.6 percent of his field goals, which ranks third in the SEC.

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