Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers (16-8, 5-6) hit the road this weekend to face the Ole Miss Rebels (14-10, 5-6) in a huge game for Bruce Pearl's team, but they'll do so without the services of sophomore forward Horace Spencer. Out the last two games after injuring his shoulder, Spencer will again be out for the Tigers said Pearl and his availability for the remainder of the season remains in question.
“I think next week we’ll probably get more of a read on his situation," Pearl said. "The doctors are still, I think what the doctors are doing are trying to determine whether or not he needs surgery or whether he could come back this year. I think that’s what the delay is. He’s rehabbing, but he will not make the trip.”
Averaging 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this season, Spencer has been a key contributor for the Tigers at the power forward position coming off the bench, especially with Danjel Purifoy still recovering from an ankle injury. Now without Spencer the role falls to junior T.J. Lang, part of a group of guys coming off the bench that have performed well for Auburn in recent weeks.
Along with point guard Ronnie Johnson, shooting guard Bryce Brown and center Anfernee McLemore, Lang will be asked to continue to provide a spark for the Tigers off the bench. Pearl said recently the group has really added an extra dimension to a team that is continuing to improve overall.
"I really don’t think we drop off when we go to the bench," Pearl said. "We get different but we don’t drop-off and that’s a great place to be. Folks want to get Austin Wiley in foul trouble; OK, then deal with Anfernee McLemore. We’re better with Austin on the floor in some ways and when Anfernee comes on the floor he brings something different and we try to utilize it.
"So Ronnie Johnson (or) Jared Harper, Bryce Brown or T.J. Dunans, we can go to the bench and I do think that makes your locker room so healthy when everybody feels like they’re contributing and we’ve got one mission."
The mission is to remain on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, a place the Tigers find themselves after winning five of their last seven games in SEC play. Currently 58th in the RPI and squarely in the hunt for postseason play, Auburn has a chance to add to its case with another road win. To do that will take another quality outing from his team, something Pearl believes they are very capable of.
"Watch the tape of our game against Ole Miss and watch us play now and I'd say we're playing better," he said. "Guys have made a lot of progress. Most teams have also. I think our guys are going to their strengths and staying away from their weaknesses. But it is a grind. It's all about the next one and whether or not we can keep it going. We've certainly put ourselves in a good position."
Auburn takes on Ole Miss at 5 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.