Danjel Purifoy (above) is out with an ankle injury.
“Our locker room is great,” said Pearl, who added, “I am very, very proud of that.”
The Tigers went into league play with a 10-2 record and the momentum of four straight wins, but then dropped SEC games to Georgia, Vandy and Ole Miss.
“It’s difficult and we’re disappointed that after getting off to one of the best starts we have had in Auburn basketball in the last dozen years that we weren’t able to take better advantage of it against teams that are most likely going to be in the middle of our division, middle of our league,” the coach said.
“Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Georgia are all four through seven or eight. That is kind of where I want to get to with this team. I want to get to this middle of the league and to the postseason. That is where I want to get to.
“That’s what I think is realistic,” Pearl added. “I have said it all year. I have not changed that. I still feel it’s realistic, but when you don’t beat the teams that are there, that makes it more challenging. The locker room is tremendous considering what we’ve been through.”
Tipoff is set for shortly after 6 p.m. CST on Tuesday from Mizzou Arena where the home team will arrive with a 5-9 overall record and an 0-2 mark in league play after losing 71-66 on Saturday at Georgia. In the league home opener Missouri fell 88-77 to LSU.
Pearl said keeping his players focused on improving is important and noted that he read them part of an email he received on the subject. “I actually had an alum that spent some time coaching--I don’t even know who he is, but he emailed me the other day and he said something that I thought was really interesting.
“I’m not going to give you the full Monty, but you know the expression, ‘the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores?’ He said that’s not accurate. He had another word for it. I’m not going to use that word because it will be misunderstood so I’m not going to use the word he used, but he had a great point, and this was the point I actually talked to my freshmen and sophomores yesterday, about this email. I thought it was so profound. Although I may have used a different word, it was profound.
“The pain of going through what we went through last year, the pain of what we’re going through right now, it’s painful. What are you going to do with it?
“Is it just that you’re going to be a sophomore next year, and is that going to ease the pain and change the pain? Or what are we going to do about it? So that’s what I’m trying to speak to these young freshmen and sophomores about. We’re experiencing it. They don’t know what they don’t know until they’ve gone through it.”
The Tigers will make the trip to Missouri without one of their key young players, starting forward Danjel Purifoy, who injured his ankle in Saturday’s 88-85 loss to Ole Miss. Asked how long the redshirt freshman will be out, Pearl said, “At this point we’ll just say he won’t travel to Missouri. I don’t know. The only reason why I would not say how much longer he may or may not be because number one, I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I’m not a doctor. And number two, I really don’t want to give our opponents that information.
“Danjel is an integral part of our scheme because he is such a unique pick and pop four-man because he can do things inside and out offensively and defensively. He is a huge part of what we do and, obviously, he leads us in minutes played, which is an indication of what his value is. The only reason I’m not going to go beyond that is I’d like to hold that from a scouting standpoint.”