Ronnie Johnson (above) has seen his role expand as the season has progressed.
Harper, the SEC Freshman of the Week for the second time this season, is Auburn’s starting point guard. His backup, graduate transfer Ronnie Johnson, has seen his minutes rise in recent games.
“We are getting really good point guard play from Jared Harper and Ronnie Johnson,” Coach Bruce Pearl said. “Those guys can both break you down and score in different ways.
“The last few games they have really got into a nice rhythm,” Pearl pointed out. “We haven’t played them much together, but when we go to the bench to Ronnie we don’t drop off at all.
“Ronnie has been great,” Auburn’s head coach added. “He has been a big tutor for Jared and those two guys have taken really big pride in running our team.”
Johnson led Auburn in scoring vs. Alabama on Saturday night in an 82-77 road victory for the Tigers. The left-handed transfer from the University of Houston has averaged in double figures (10.9 points) in AU’s previous nine games.
A four-star recruit out of Pebblebrook High in Mableton, Ga., Harper averaged 17.5 points in two games last week and was 7-10 on three-pointers.
Harper was also SEC Freshman of the Week in December following victories by the Tigers over Oklahoma and UConn.
Jared Harper launches a shot vs. the UConn Huskies.
Tuesday’s home game vs. Mississippi State is scheduled for an 8 p.m. CST start with TV coverage on ESPNU. Auburn will bring a 15-8 (4-6 SEC) record into the game while the visiting Bulldogs are 14-8 (5-5 SEC).
Mississippi State rallied from a 19-point deficit to win on Saturday vs. visiting Tennessee. Pearl said the Tigers will face an opponent featuring a variety of players who are performing well.
“It was really a great win for them because Tennessee, I think, went to Mississippi State probably as hot as anybody was in the league, playing as well as anybody in the league, and (Mississippi State) did it without I.J. Ready.
“I think he is a really important piece,” Pearl said of Ready, a 5-11 senior point guard averaging 8.7 points and 4.7 assists per game “The fact they could win without him I think tells you a lot about how good Lamar Peters is as a freshman point guard, what a tough cover he is.
“(Quinndary) Weatherspoon is a pro, and he didn’t score until about the 10-minute mark in the second half, and again, they just managed to hang in there without him,” Pearl noted. Weatherspoon, a 6-4 sophomore guard, leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 17.0 points per outing.
While Ready is questionable for the Bulldogs sophomore forward/center for the Tigers Horace Spencer is trying to recover from a shoulder injury suffered last Tuesday vs. Tennessee. Spencer, who has a shoulder problem, did not make the trip to Tuscaloosa on Saturday and Pearl noted the Tigers are trying to figure out when Spencer will be ready for action.