Arkansas, like Auburn, is not playing its best basketball down the stretch run of SEC play. The Razorbacks have lost five of their last seven games and need to win their Senior Day contest to strengthen their NCAA Tournament bid resume.
Auburn, 4-11 in the SEC and 14-14 overall, needs to win this game to clinch the five seed in the upcoming conference tournament that starts on Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
"It's a tough test," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says. "Arkansas is one of those teams that seems to play three-notches better when they are at home."
The Razorbacks will bring a 19-10 overall mark into the contest and are 8-7 in the SEC after losing at Ole Miss 81-72 on Tuesday.
The Tigers are coming in on a three-game losing streak after falling 59-54 at home vs. the slumping Georgia Bulldogs.
Auburn is being led in scoring and rebounding by senior Quan Prowell. The Columbus, Ga., native is averaging 15.5 points and 6.4 boards a game.
"We are still competing really hard," Lebo says. "We are just trying to plug the little dikes here and put a competitive team out there."
The play of sophomore Lucas Hargrove has been a pleasant surprise since getting his second career start in the Tigers' Feb. 24 win over Alabama. Since that game, Hargrove has been in the starting lineup, except for Senior Night when the Tigers suffered one of their most disappointing losses of the season vs. Georgia. Hargrove is averaging 7.8 points per game this season, but has scored 13.5 points per game in the Tigers last four contests.
Auburn lost to Arkansas in its SEC opener, 76-70. The first time the Tigers and Razorbacks met Auburn was already having to play without several of its key contributors due to injuries. Now, the Tigers have had the entire conference season to adjust to playing increased minutes. Five Auburn players are ranked in the top-30 in the conference in average minutes per game. Auburn has gotten a total of 21 40-minute games from its players, with Robertson leading the way with nine.
"They are worn down a little bit," Lebo said of his players. "Everybody wears down physically and also mentally a little bit. We have to play at such a high level every single night with those six guys that puts a little bit of added pressure on them to be at a high level if we are going to even have a chance to win."
Auburn is shooting a dismal 20.4 percent from three point range in its last two games. The Tigers are not getting a lot of production from behind the arc lately from three of its best scorers. Hargrove, Rasheem Barrett and Quantez Robertson have made 4-for-37 from three in their last three games. If the Tigers want to beat the taller Razorbacks, that will have to change.
Sonny Weems will be one of the seniors honored on Saturday.
Arkansas will be celebrating Senior Night, honoring six players, including four of its top five scorers in Sonny Weems (15.2 ppg), Darian Townes (11.4 ppg), Gary Ervin (9.6 ppg) and Charles Thomas(8.5 ppg). Steven Hill and Vincent Hunter will also be honored. Arkansas starts three players 6-6 or taller, including a pair of 6-10 giants in Hunter and Townes. Seven-footer Hill will probably be one of the first players off the bench as well.
"Arkansas is very difficult at home on an emotional night for six seniors who have meant a lot to that program," Lebo said. "They are 14-1 at home, and it is a very difficult environment to play in."
The game will be televised live by ESPN Classic.