Auburn Hosts LSU in Hopes of Picking Up SEC Win Number 2
Jared Harper (1) attempting a shot during December 23rd's game against UConn. (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Dakota Sumpter)
After a long, ten day stretch of not playing at home, the Auburn Tigers (11-6, 1-4) return to Auburn Arena Wednesday night to face the LSU Tigers (9-7, 1-4) at 7:30 P.M. Auburn went 1-1 last week in their two road conference games. The long awaited first SEC win came against Missouri in Columbia last Tuesday, 77-72. The bench contributed in a huge way, by racking up 43 points, led by Ronnie Johnson and Bryce Brown’s 13 points. Mustapha Heron turned up the heat late in the second half, by scoring seven of Auburn’s last 11 points on his way to 16 total points. Momentum would come to a halt on Saturday, as Auburn fell on the road to Kentucky, 92-72. Auburn found themselves down by four with 12 minutes remaining in the game which was fueled by a 12-2 Tiger run led by TJ Dunans, but foul trouble was the factor that allowed Kentucky to pull away late. Heron scored 11, which means that for the 17th straight game, the freshman has ended the evening in double-figures. Like Auburn, LSU enters the contest with a 1-4 record in the SEC. Unlike Auburn, a majority of LSU’s losses have been by double-digits. The Bayou Bengals fell to Alabama on Saturday in Baton Rouge, 81-66. The Tigers were tied with Alabama with 5:09 remaining in the game, but the Tide nailed three three-pointers and a slam dunk to move their lead to 67-56, a deficit that LSU was not able to overcome. LSU’s second half defense did not help their cause, either. After shooting 28.1 % from the field in the first half, the Crimson Tide improved their percentage to 51.6% in the second half. All four losses in the SEC have come by an average of 17 points, including a 30-point loss to Texas A&M on January 11 in College Station. The projected starting five for LSU will show less experience than they are used to having. The blow of losing forward Craig Victor II due to a “violation of team rules” has been felt this season, as the Tigers are missing an extra 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Victor complimented Ben Simmons in '15-'16 and was expected to have a big season with Simmons leaving for the NBA. The leading scorer in this group is Antonio Blakeney at 17.1 ppg. However, Blakeney suffered a leg injury in Saturday’s loss to Alabama, and his status for this game is uncertain. Behind him is Australian forward Duop Reath. Reath has recorded three double-doubles so far this season, with his most recent being against Mississippi State on January 7 where he recorded 19 points and 13 rebounds. Reath averages 13.7 points per, with 6.2 rebounds to go along. Another key player to watch for is Aaron Epps, the player who has seen a majority of playing time at forward since Victor was dismissed from the team. The forward averages 6.1 points per contest, but has five double-digit scoring games and is shooting 51.4 percent from the field. Auburn continues preparations without the contributions of forward Danjel Purifoy. According to Coach Bruce Pearl, Purifoy is out of his boot, and is shooting the ball, but has not participated in full team practices since hurting his ankle during the Ole Miss game on January 7. The Tigers will go send more experience to the starting five, according to the projected lineup. Both TJ Dunans and TJ Lang will move into the lineup, with Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron joining them at the guard position, and Austin Wiley is expected to start at center. Auburn faces LSU on Wednesday in hopes of earning their second conference win of the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. inside Auburn Arena.