Austin Wiley (above) drives to the basket in Auburn's previous game vs. Alabama.
Auburn, Ala.--Auburn will look to sweep its regular season basketball series vs. Alabama and bounce back from a disappointing loss to Tennessee as the Tigers and Tide tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Auburn defeated Alabama 84-64 on January 21, but dropped its next two SEC games to South Carolina and Tennessee with a non-conference road victory at TCU sandwiched between the setbacks.
Freshman point guard Jared Harper notes the Tigers must remember what they did well in the previous matchup vs. the Tide and play that way on Saturday night.
“It is definitely going to be a lot harder,” says Harper, who scored 21 points in Auburn’s loss to Tennessee. “They are at home in their environment so they are going to be playing their best at home. We have to be able to lock in and be together as a team to continue and win.”
Auburn brings a 14-8 overall mark into Coleman Coliseum and is 3-6 in the SEC. Alabama is 13-8 overall and 6-3 in the league after losing 87-68 on Wednesday at Arkansas. The contest will be televised on the SEC Network.
In the first game vs. the Tide the Tigers outscored Alabama 54-34 in the second half after going into the locker room tied at intermission. Center Austin Wiley scored 19 points and pulled in nine rebounds for the Tigers. Another freshman, Mustapha Heron, contributed 15 points and five rebounds.
The Tigers got a spark from backup point guard Ronnie Johnson in the win over Alabama. He hit 5-7 field goals and 6-8 free throws as he finished the night with 17 points, two assists, one steal and no turnovers in 20 minutes.
Ronnie Johnson has earned more playing time in recent games an boosted his average 6.8 points per game.
Wiley, who came into the Tennessee game on a hot streak as a scorer, was shut down by the Volunteers, finishing with five points. The 6-11 center got off only two field goals in that contest.
“We did a terrible job getting the ball to Austin on the inside and we turned the ball over a lot,” Coach Bruce Pearl said. “I?am not sure why because going in I thought that is where we had some real advantage. From the very first possession we tried to get it to him and we turned it over. We were not able to, as a team, create good opportunities for him to get his touches on the inside, and he was open in there a lot.”
Braxton Key, a 6-8 freshman forward, led Alabama in scoring at Auburn Arena with 18 points and was the top rebounder with 10. For the season he is averaging a team-leading 11.9 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game.
Dazon Ingram, a 6-5 redshirt freshman guard, is averaging 10 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Tide.
Heron leads the Tigers in scoring (15.3 points per game)?and rebounding (5.9). Harper is averaging 12.8 points and redshirt freshman forward Danjel Purifoy is next at 11.5 points per outing. In recent games Purifoy has been playing in a reserve role as he tries to shake off the effects of an ankle injury that has limited his mobility.