Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. as the 8-2 Tigers met the 6-4 visitors from the Sun Belt Conference for the first time in men's basketball competition. Auburn ended a two-game losing streak earlier this week with a 78-60 victory over Southern Mississippi on Tuesday night.
"It is our last preparation," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis says, noting his Tigers begin conference play on Wednesday night in Nashville vs. 10-0 Vanderbilt. "Momentum is always a key point going in," Ellis adds. "We had a good crowd in for the Southern Miss game and we need that again on Friday."
UNO is led by 6-1, 190-pound senior guard Johnell Smith, who is averaging 15.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest. He scored 17 points and dished off five assists in his last game vs. South Florida.
Kyle Buggs, a 6-4, 165 senior guard, is averaging 12.8 points and three rebounds per game after scoring 18 points with five rebounds and four steals vs. South Florida in his last contest.
UNO's third guard in the starting lineup is 6-0, 185 senior A.J. Meredith, who is averaging seven points and 3.7 assists per outing. The native of Macon, Ga., has started 68 straight games for the Privateers.
The lone forward in the lineup is 6-5, 200 senior Kentrell Martin, who is averaging 3.4 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Ben Elias is the starting center at 6-10, 260 pounds. He averages 5.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per outing.
Key reserves include 6-8, 210 junior forward Victor Brown, who is averaging 11 points and 11 rebounds, and 6-1, 180 freshman guard Bo McCalebb, who is averaging 10.3 points.
Senior Kyle Davis, Auburn's all-time leader in blocked shots, is scheduled to start at center. Davis has come off the bench most of the season since suffering a preseason ankle sprain.
Auburn is expected to counter the Privateers with a taller lineup that Ellis used for the first time vs. Southern Miss. Six-foot-ten Kyle Davis (9.7 points, 7.6 rebounds) is scheduled to start at center with 6-8 Brandon Robinson (13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds) and Marco Killingsworth (14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds) at the forwards.
Ian Young, who is averaging 9.9 points per game, is expected to start at point guard. Lewis Monroe, the injured returning starter at the position, could see his first action of the season as he continues to rehab from a broken bone in his foot. However, if Monroe does play, he is not expected to see extensive action or be close to 100 percent after getting his cast removed just before Christmas.
The other starting guard is 6-3 junior Nathan Watson, who is scoring nine points per game.
UNO comes into the game off a loss, falling 66-61 to host South Florida in the finals of a tournament in Tampa. The Privateers have spent much of the season on the road with the game at Auburn being their seventh road contest. New Orleans is coached by Monte Towe, the former N.C. State star point guard on the 1974 national championship team, who is 36-32 in his third season UNO.
Auburn is the second SEC team on the New Orleans schedule this season. Mississippi State was a 77-59 winner on Dec. 16th. The other losses have been against Texas (89-55) and Hawaii (92-64). New Orleans has victories against Texas State (77-64), Samford (62-60), Tulane (69-66), Idaho State (86-72), Loyola of New Orleans (75-55) and Texas-Arlington (57-55).
"New Orleans knocked off Tulane at Tulane," Ellis says. "They are going to be like Southern Miss. They have very good guards. We are going to have to come in and give a great effort because momentum is a big key. We have a very tough SEC opener against Vanderbilt, who will probably come into the game undefeated."
Friday night's game will feature a promotion in which anyone 17 years old and under can attend free when entering the coliseum with a ticketholder. Fans will see a UNO program that has three straight winning seasons and has traditionally been a strong mid-majors level team. UNO has 26 winning seasons in 35 years of intercollegiate basketball with 14 seasons featuring 20 wins.
"They are another experienced team," Ellis says of the Privateers. "Eight of their top 10 players are back. They have very good guards. They put three guys out there that really get up in you on defense. On offense, they take the ball to the basket and get out and run. They have six seniors out of their top 10 players. They really try to push the ball and want a game where they can open the floor and penetrate."
Tiger Ticket Extra: AU has announced a new promotion for the SEC home opener vs. Ole Miss a week from Saturday. The first 2,000 fans at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum will receive Charles Barkley bobblehead dolls...New Orleans led by 14 points in its last game before host South Florida rallied for a 66-61 victory in the finals of the USF Holiday Classic. USF outscored the Privateers 24-5 in the final minutes to pull out the victory.