MUSTAPHA HERON (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

GAME PREVIEW | LSU at Auburn

Reeling Tigers head to The Plains for what could be a high-scoring battle against a talented, but young AU crew.

LSU (9-7, 1-4 SEC) at Auburn (11-6, 1-4)

When: 7:30 p.m. (CT) Wednesday

Where: Auburn Arena | Auburn, Ala.

TV/Radio:SEC Network | The Eagle (98.1-FM, Baton Rouge)

Series:LSU leads the series 85-66 but trails in games on The Plains 36-35. The purple-and-gold Tigers are 3-2 vs. AU in road games since Auburn Arena opened. LSU has won the last two games there by 35 total points.

Last meeting: LSU cruised to an 80-68 triumph at Auburn last Feb. 2.

Last time out:Alabama 81, LSU 66; Kentucky 92, Auburn 62

Tiger trends

Leading scorer Antonio Blakeney is a game-time decision after tweaking his ankle late in the loss to Alabama. The 6-foot-4 sophomore made the trip but has not practices this week. … LSU played arguably its best 35 minutes of the SEC season in the loss to Alabama before fading badly and surrendering 25 points down the stretch. … The Tigers limited Alabama to 28.1% shooting (9-for-32) in the first half, but the Tide bounced back to hit 16-of-31 after intermission and most damaging, 7-of-14 from outside the 3-point arc over the last 20 minutes. … This is the first time since the league opener against Vanderbilt that LSU takes on a foe who comes in averaging more points than the purple-and-gold Tigers. AU is generating 78.8 compared to 75.6 for LSU. On the flip side, AU also allows 76 points a game. … Brandon Sampson has connected on only three of his last 14 3-point attempts and hasn’t made more than one trey in a game since nailing 4-of-5 vs. Vandy. … Duop Reath has rejected 3 shots in three of the last four games. … Skyler Mays is coming off a solid 12-point performance vs. Alabama and has scored in double digits in three of five SEC games, with 8 in the other two. … Jalyn Patterson uncharacteristically struggled with ball-handling vs. Alabama with four turnovers. Before that he has coughed the ball up only twice in the previous five games. … Aaron Epps showed signs of offensive promise with 11 points against the Tide, hitting all three floor shots he took and 5-of-7 from the foul stripe. He has scored only 4 points in 31 minutes the two games prior. … The Tigers have shot fewer free throws (88) in five league games than opponents have made (91). … Four of LSU’s last six foes have made at least 10 3s. Oddly enough, the two times that hasn’t occurred, the foe shot under 30% from outside the arc.

Breaking down Auburn

Senior T.J. Dunans made his first start of the season on Saturday and produced a career-best 23 points in AU’s loss to Kentucky. He hit 10-of-20 floor shots, 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Mustapha has scored in double digits in each of the first 17 games of his career, breaking a mark held by former AU star Wesley Person. … Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is one win shy of 500 for his career, which spans 22 seasons. … AU has started four freshmen in a game six times this season, marking the first time in Pearl’s career he has started as many as three first-year players. … The orange-and-blue Tigers are 5-2 this season in game decided by four points or fewer. … Like much of the league, Auburn has struggled at home so far in league play with losses to Georgia and Ole Miss. … Four AU players have hoisted 60 or more treys – Mustapha, Bryce Brown, Daniel Purifoy and Jared Harper. That quarter has 300 attempts among them and they are hitting at a 36.3% clip.

Auburn Tigers to watch

G Mustapha Heron: The dynamic freshman will score – his 17-game streak in double digits attests to that. But making him work for his points has to be at the top of LSU’s to-do list. Heron has launched 10 or more field goals in each of the last eight games but has shot above 50% in only one of the last six outings. Keeping him off the free-throw line is a must as well. Until an uncharacteristic 2-for-6 night vs. Kentucky, he had made 18-of-19 in the three previous games.

C Austin Wiley: A late arriver to the team after graduating early, the lanky big man is still working his way into college basketball shape, but he has a high ceiling and could be a factor inside against Duop Reath if LSU opts for a four-guard set. Not so much on defense, where Wiley has been foul prone and not much of a factor as a shot-blocker (9 in 122 minutes). But on the offensive end, he is almost automatic from the paint and comes in hitting 59.5% (22 of 37).

Projected starting lineups

LSU

G Antonio Blakeney (17.1 ppg, 5 rpg, 29 assists, 48.1% FG, 27-72 3-pt. FG)

--- OR ---

G Brandon Sampson (10.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 48.5% FG, 20-64 3-pt. FG)

G Branden Jenkins (2 ppg, 4-20 FG)

G Jalyn Patterson (6.1 ppg, 55 assists, 23 steals)

F Duop Reath (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 52.9% FG, 32 blocks)

F Wayde Sims (5.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 44.7% FG, 9-22 3-pt. FG)

LSU statistics

Auburn

G TJ Lang (4.8 ppg, 38.3% FG, 20-53 3-pt. FG)

G Mustapha Heron (15.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 25-60 3-pt. FG, 76.6% FT)

G T.J. Dunans (8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 27 steals)

G Jared Harper (13.2 ppg, 2.9 apg, 31-90 3-pt. FG, 27 steals)

C Austin Wiley (7.1 ppg, 4 rpg, 59.5% FG)

Auburn statistics

Matchup to watch

Not so much an individual showdown, but more of how does LSU fare with its evolving four-guard lineup against an Auburn team that regularly plays that way. The purple-and-gold Tigers have shifted that direction since Craig Victor II was dismissed and seem to be getting more comfortable with the notion. This sets up as a high-scoring game as it is and using more full-court press against a four-guard Auburn team that plays 4-5 freshmen regularly might just be a possible path to success for LSU.

Keys to the game

Playing 40 minutes, especially on defense. LSU got much closer against Alabama, a much different opponent that Auburn presents. Now, with a foe that has some similarities in style, can LSU come out and match the AU intensity from the opening tip and not let up? They had better because even though Auburn is younger, the orange-and-blue Tigers have faced much tougher tests so far this season and have fared well in most of them.  


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