Auburn’s run through the Cancun Challenge ended with a thud, but the Tigers were encouraged by their play overall so far. They hope to build off some solid play and carry momentum into Tuesday’s meeting with visiting South Carolina Upstate.
After opening the season with four straight wins - including a two-point triumph over Texas Tech in the semifinals of the event in Mexico - Auburn held a lead early in the second half against No. 19 Purdue in the title game before struggling down the stretch and falling 96-71. “Texas Tech is going to be an NCAA Tournament team. So, we got one win over an NCAA Tournament team,” coach Bruce Pearl told the media. “We got a loss against a team that is probably going to be a Sweet 16-type tournament team. We beat three good teams in North Florida, Georgia State and Eastern Kentucky. We’re where I kind of expected us to be.” Freshman Danjel Purifoy continued his strong early-season run with a personal-best 22 points in the losing effort. The Spartans are 2-1 thus far in a stretch of seven straight games away from home after falling 72-60 at the Charleston on Sunday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, SEC Network Plus
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA UPSTATE (3-3): Senior center Michael Buchanan has elevated his game in the past two contests, averaging 22.5 points and 10 rebounds while making 20-of-25 shots. He is one of four Spartans averaging at least 10 points, led by sophomore guard Mike Cunningham (13.7), who was held to a season-low three points on 1-of-7 shooting in the loss to Charleston. Senior forward Josh Cuthbertson has exactly four assists in four consecutive games after recording 10 in the season opener.
ABOUT AUBURN (4-1): Purifoy was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc in the loss to the Boilermakers but his teammates combined to go 2-of-15, making it hard to keep up with Purdue’s blistering pace (17-of-26). Pearl said that his team “actually scored around the rim a little bit better than I thought we would. I thought we had to make 3s. I thought we had to make shots. We didn‘t. But, boy, did they.” Purifoy (16.4 ppg), Mustapha Heron (14.8) and Jared Harper (10.6) - all freshmen - continue to lead the way on the offensive end and they’ve made 26 of the team’s 40 3-pointers.
1. This marks the first meeting between the programs.
2. Auburn F LaRon Smith is 8-of-9 from the floor over the last three games after going 3-of-9 in the first two.
3. The Spartans entered Monday’s action tied for 328th nationally in foul shooting (60.7 percent).
PREDICTION: Auburn 78, South Carolina Upstate 64