JARED HARPER (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Auburn's Basketball Team Still Looking for First SEC Victory of the Season

Bruce Pearl is looking to end a three-game losing streak as his basketball Tigers play at Missouri.

Jared Harper (above) is averaging 13.7 points per game for the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--A pair of basketball teams looking for their first SEC win of the season will meet at 6 p.m. CST on Tuesday as Missouri plays host to Coach Bruce Pearl's Auburn Tigers.

“Missouri is an excellent defensive team--second-best field goal percentage defense in the league, second-best field goal percentage from three,”?Pearl said. “They have struggled some offensively, but they are a very good offensive rebounding team and they have had their moments offensively.

“They run very good stuff so we have to do a better job defending to be able to give ourselves a chance to win,” said Pearl, whose team is 10-5 overall and 0-3 in the SEC. Missouri 5-9 with an 0-2 SEC record.

Coach Kim Anderson’s team is shooting just 39.5 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three-point range while averaging 70.6 points per contest. Auburn is averaging 79.4 points per game while making 42.3 percent of its field goals and 34.3 percent behind the three-point line.

Auburn is allowing opponents to make 41.8 percent of their field goals, but in the three SEC games the number is 49.7 percent. Missouri is allowing opponents to make 39.5 percent of their field goals and just 29.3 percent from three-point land. In SEC games Missouri is allowing opponents to hit 47.1 percent of their field goals and 20.6 percent of their threes.

Missouri’s top scorer, 6-7, 243 sophomore forward Kevin Puryear, is averaging 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds. Jordan Barnett, a 6-7, 215 junior forward, is averaging 11.0 points and a team-best 7.6 rebounds.

Mizzou’s third scorer in double figures, 6-4, 192 freshman guard Frankie Hughes, is averaging 10.2 points and 2.6 rebounds.

Missouri leads the series 4-1 and won the last meeting 76-61 in January 2016 at Columbia where it is 3-0 all-time vs. Auburn.

Pearl’s Tigers will playing without starting forward Danjel Purifoy, who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. He is averaging 13.7 points and 5.8 rebounds

“If you want to know why I was positive coming out of the Ole Miss game after we just got beat in a game we need to win at home, we held (Sebastian) Saiz in check and that took some doing,” Pearl said. “I’ve got freshmen and sophomores against a player that has been there a long time. We held our own on the inside. I was pleased with that.

Photography: David Butler

Coach Bruce Pearl's team is looking for its first win since defeating the UConn Huskies just before Christmas.

“We got great play from our point guards,” the coach said. “Ronnie (Johnson) and Jared (Harper) were terrific. We didn’t play as well at the wing either offensively or defensively. We have got to make that adjustment, but I will take away from that and go knowing what an experienced team Ole Miss is, what they have been through, so the question isn’t just being a freshman or being a sophomore, but how are we going to change by this pain? I still think there is time to change at this point.”

The game will be televised by SEC Network in what will be the second league road game for Auburn’s key scorers, freshmen Mustapha Heron (16.2 points per game, 6.3 rebounds) and Harper (13.7 points per game, 3.1 assists).

Pearl will wait until game time to announce who will fill in for Purifoy as a starter. “We are going to have to make some adjustments so the cast of characters--the candidates are LaRon Smith, Anfernee McLemore, Devon Waddell, Horace Spencer. A couple of those guys have to play more than they are playing right now....T.J. Lang can also play that spot if we decide to play smaller.”

ITAT TV: Coach Bruce Pearl

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