Auburn Steps Out of Conference to face TCU Saturday
Ronnie Johnson (35) (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)
Auburn Men’s Basketball will take a break from conference play this weekend to take place in the SEC- Big XII challenge against TCU Saturday at 5 P.M. in Fort Worth, Texas. The game will mark the third time this season that Auburn has faced an opponent from the Big XII conference, going 2-0 in previous meetings. Auburn faced Texas Tech on the opening night of the Cancun Challenge on November 22 and won the game 67-65. The Tigers held on to a solid 38-23 lead heading to the locker room and kept the Red Raiders away for most of the second half. Down 62-51, Texas Tech’s Justin Gray hit a layup with 4:45 remaining in the game sparked a run that cut Auburn’s lead to one with just 0:17 remaining in the game. A free throw from Jared Harper four seconds later sealed the win for Auburn. The win moved the Tigers to 4-0 on the season. Auburn was Texas Tech’s only non-conference loss. Exactly one month later, Auburn accepted an invitation to participate in the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Birthday of Basketball in Uncasville, Connecticut. The opponent? Oklahoma. The Sooners were just coming off of an amazing season that saw them in the Final Four. But, with the loss of Buddy Hield to the NBA, Oklahoma found themselves in a “rebuilding” situation. Mustapha Heron’s three-pointer with 13:24 remaining in the first half gave Auburn a 7-5 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish. The Sooners scored four points off of free throws late, but Auburn held on to win 74-70. Heron picked up a double-double, scoring 15 points and picking up 12 rebounds. Jared Harper and TJ Dunans led scoring with 21 points a piece. Auburn would defeat UConn two days later in their last game prior to SEC play, finishing 10-2 before Christmas. The meeting with TCU will be the third against a Big XII team. However, it will be the first true “road” contest against a school from that conference. TCU is 1-1 against common opponents Oklahoma and Texas Tech. On January 3, the Horned Frogs downed Oklahoma in Fort Worth, 60-57 behind a late rally that saw TCU pick up their first lead with 3:38 remaining in the game. TCU visited Lubbock on January 18 and fell to the Red Raiders 75-69. Vlad Brodziansky led the team in scoring with 22. TCU enters the game at 14-6, 3-5 in Big XII play. The Horned Frogs have had success against teams from the state of Alabama so far this season, by defeating Alabama State 98-62 to open the season. They also knocked off Jacksonville State on December 18, 79-60. Conference play has not been kind to the Frogs, as they have lost three straight entering the contest with Auburn to Texas Tech, Baylor, and most recently, Oklahoma State. West Virginia and Kansas have also defeated TCU in league play. Auburn looks to bounce back after falling to South Carolina 98-69 on Tuesday. Despite the loss, two freshmen had career games. Off the bench, Anfernee McLemore scored a career-high 18 points, which led the team. Austin Wiley picked up his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Mustapha Heron continued his streak of landing in double-figures to 20 games, as he scored 10 in the loss. On paper, it is hard to distinguish the two teams. Auburn averages 79 points per game while TCU averages 76, both teams are dead even in rebounds per contest (37), and Auburn averages just one more turnover than TCU per game (14-13). The Horned Frogs seem to hold the edge defensively, allowing 67 points per game to Auburn’s 76. Auburn has three players that average double-figures, with two more off the bench that could cause TCU trouble. Ronnie Johnson has averaged 10 points over the last six games, while Anfernee Mclemore has scored 30 points in his last three games. Add that to Danjel Purifoy, Jared Harper, and Mustapha Heron’s double-figure outputs, and Auburn has the ability to earn a key win. Auburn must improve in three-point shooting, however. TCU’s defense allows .347 three-point percentage, while Auburn is shooting .345. Auburn faces TCU this Saturday at 5 P.M. in Fort Worth, Texas as part of the SEC-Big XII challenge. Key matchups this Saturday include Georgia-Texas, Texas A&M- West Virginia, Florida-Oklahoma, Ole Miss- Baylor, and Kentucky-Kansas.