Rutgers comes in with a 1-2 record with a win over Fairleigh Dickinson (70-66) and losses to East Carolina (79-74) and VCU (71-58) to open the season. They are led by power forward Rashod Kent (6-6, 275, Sr.) in the middle with his 13 point and 12.3 rebound average per game. The team's leading scorer is junior guard Jerome Coleman (6-2, 190), who averages 17 points per game to go along with three rebounds.
Birmingham native Eugene Dabney (6-10, 225) joins Ricky Shields (6-4, 185) and Mike Sherrod (6-2, 180) to round out a small but athletic starting five for the Scarlet Knights.
"It's our first road game and it's against a Big East opponent," Auburn coach Cliff Ellis notes, "a team that has several players returning with a new coach. It's early in the season and anytime you go on the road, it's always interesting to see how your team responds because they'll be in the confines of another major conference. It's their first home game. I think the thing with their ball club is inside they are very experienced. We have to be ready for that."
Auburn will send a relatively inexperienced team onto the court for the third straight game this weekend as true freshmen Dwayne Mitchell and Marco Killingsworth join with junior college transfer Derrick Bird, sophomore center Kyle Davis and junior small forward Marquis Daniels to form a very athletic starting five for the Tigers as they head into unfamiliar territory for the first time this season.
Scoring 14 points per game this season, Daniels (6-6, 200) leads the Tigers on the offensive end with Bird (6-4, 195) just behind at 13 points per contest. Killingsworth (6-8, 240) has come on strong of late and has his average up to 9.5 points and three rebounds per game. Davis (6-10, 220) is off to a solid start with eight points, six rebounds, and four blocks per game while Mitchell (6-4, 195), playing the point for the first time in his life, is averaging five points, 3.5 rebounds, and a team-high four assists per contest. Ellis says that he's been pleased with the development of Mitchell to this point.
"When we signed him he was going to play a wing," Ellis notes. "He's responded and, of course, Lewis Monroe has been a great addition to our team late. But we play two off-guards at the point a lot and I think both of them have handled it pretty well, especially Dwayne Mitchell with the job he's done. It's really amazing to me right now what he's done in an off position in a short period of time and he's only a freshman."
Ready to give a hand off the bench is one of the deeper rosters in Auburn history. Guards Monroe, freshman walk-on Nathan Watson and junior Adam Harrington along with wing Brandon Robinson and inside players Abdou Diame and Mack McGadney give the Tigers plenty of options to play a number of different combinations. That should come in handy on Saturday as a new coaching staff will likely give Auburn some looks the Tigers haven't seen yet. If the young guards take care of the ball and the Tigers hit the boards with the reckless abandon they've been known for in the past, this could be a good trip for Ellis and his team.
The Tigers return home for a Tuesday Nov. 27 game to face McNeese State at 7 p.m. before playing host to Florida International Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at Beard-Eaves.