Auburn Basketball: Tigers vs Xavier Game Info and Preview


Auburn Tigers (4-5) vs Xavier Musketeers (8-2)

Date: Saturday, December 20, 2014
Start Time: 5PM Central
Location: Auburn, AL
Arena: Auburn Arena
TV Info: SEC Network
Odds (via Xavier (-5.5)

The Auburn basketball team has gotten off to a slow start this season under new head coach Bruce Pearl, due in part to an undermanned, undersized roster and a tough non-conference schedule. The team has received a boost in depth thanks to the return of senior guard Antoine Mason and sophomore swingman Alex Thompson, plus the arrival of 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed, but the schedule only gets tougher as the Tigers host Xavier today.

“This is the best basketball team we have played,” Pearl said this week. “Without being at all critical of any of our opponents and being more complimentary to Xavier, it’s by a pretty good margin.”

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The Musketeers were 21-13 last season and 10-8 in the newly constructed Big East, their eighth 20-win season in the past nine campaigns. This year, Xavier is off to an 8-2 start following a decisive 74-58 victory over Missouri. The win pushed the program’s recent success over the SEC to 13-4 since the 2008 season. Xavier also defeated Alabama 97-84 this season.

Under head coach Chris Mack, Xavier ranks 13th nationally with 82.2 points per game, is sixth in the country with 18.7 assists and field goal percentage (52.6%) on average and is 14th overall in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48). The Musketeers have also out rebounded opponents by 7.5 boards per game.

Talented freshman Trevon Bluiett leads the team with 14 points per game, and senior Matt Stainbrook is close behind with 13.4 on average. Stainbrook, a 6-foot-10, 270-pound center, shoots 70.8% from the floor, which ranks second in the nation. He is also second on the team with 6.9 rebounds per game. Fellow 6-foot-10 starter James Farr leads the Musketeers with seven rebounds per contest.

Nov 14, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Antione Mason (14) takes a shot against Milwaukee Panthers guard Akeem Springs (2) during the second half at Auburn Arena. The Tigers beat the Panthers 83-73. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

As Pearl stated, Xavier is the best team the Tigers will have played this season, but at least they’ll get them in the friendly confines of Auburn Arena, where the team is 3-1 this season.

“You hope that the environment at home inspires us and bothers them,” Pearl said. “As this is the featured non-conference game on the schedule, to be able to get Xavier to come here first was great. Now the question is can we take advantage of it.”

The crowd was relatively sparse Wednesday night when the Tigers snapped a three-game losing streak with an 80-62 win over Winthrop. However, it was easily the best performance for the Auburn basketball team since a 105-80 victory against UL Lafayette November 21 and the most complete team Pearl has put on the floor this season.

Cinmeon Bowers was asked to carry a heavy load in the post as the team’s only real big man through the first seven games. Overall, he has done very well. With 19 points and 17 rebounds against the Eagles Wednesday, he had his sixth double-double of the season. Bowers is the SEC’s leading rebounder with 12.1 per contest, which also ranks third nationally.

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  • Now with Reed in the mix to take some of the pressure off of Bowers, the 6-foot-7, 278-pound junior can smooth out some of his rough edges. As Bowers learns the four position and Reed adjusts to the college game and his new teammates, they will see more time on the floor together, and will actually give the Tigers a size advantage at times.

    “To get our best players on the floor, is that possible, can that happen this year? Sure, it can happen this year,” Pearl said. “If Trayvon and Cinmeon warrant more minutes, it’s definitely a possibility. I just don’t know that from a learning curve that we’re ready.”

    Also, Pearl had Thompson at his disposal for the first time against Winthrop and Mason was back in the starting lineup for the first time since the season opener. The pair combined for 33 minutes.

    “With Antoine back, it is not like we have missed a beat, because we had him through the offseason. Same thing with Alex. We knew he was already. We knew what he could bring to the table,” reserve guard Malcolm Canada said. “The only new person to the family is Trayvon. It has been working out easier that what we had thought because he fits in. He knows he can fit in on this team. He is not looking for a big role. He is willing to learn so it is easy to bond with these guys.”

    Having Mason back on the floor also takes pressure off K.T. Harrell, the SEC’s leading scorer with 17.6 points per game. The seniors playing together, plus the improved size and depth on the roster, give the Auburn basketball squad a much improved outlook on today’s big non-conference test, and heading into SEC play.

    Projected Lineups:


    #5 Cinmeon Bowers, F, Jr., 6-foot-7, 278 pounds, 13.0 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 29.2 MPG
    #25 Jordon Granger, F, Jr., 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, 5.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 26.1 MPG
    #1 K.T. Harrell, G, Sr., 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, 17.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 31.4 MPG
    #13 Tahj Shamsid-Deen, G, So., 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, 7.4 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 26.6 MPG
    #14 Antoine Mason, G, Sr., 6-foot-1, 216 pounds, 15.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 28.7 MPG


    #11 Dee Davis, G, Sr., 6-foot, 170 pounds, 9.1 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 6.0 APG
    #10 Remy Abell, G, Jr., 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, 9.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.6 APG
    #5 Trevon Bluiett, G, Fr., 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, 14.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.9 APG
    #2 James Farr, F, Jr., 6-foot-10, 247 pounds, 5.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.7 APG
    #40 Matt Stainbrook, C, Sr., 6-foot-10, 270 pounds, 13.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.9 APG

    Next: Preview & Predictions For Every 2014-15 Bowl Game

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