Fresh off a third-place showing at the Charleston Classic, Auburn looks to heed coach Bruce Pearl’s bold proclamation as it returns home for a Friday date with Winthrop. The Tigers bounced back from a 14-point loss to Temple with an 89-78 victory over Hofstra, an outcome that prompted Pearl to proclaim: “We’re trying to make history.”
As off-court turmoil continues to surround the team, Pearl is squarely focused on the basketball - and while Auburn didn’t exactly look like world beaters in Charleston, he has high hopes moving forward. “You know, every time we do something we haven’t done in a long time, we make a little bit of history,” he told reporters following the win over Hofstra. “We’ve played four games so far and we don’t have a bad loss among them.” The Tigers hope to build some momentum with a one-game home stop against a Winthrop team that has rolled to a pair of one-sided victories after opening its season with back-to-back losses. Xavier Cooks had 22 points to lead the Eagles past Mars Hill 104-49 the last time out.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
ABOUT WINTHROP (2-2): Back-to-back 100-point efforts in victories over Division II foes Central Pennsylvania College and Mars Hill have the Eagles flying high; they’re averaging 88 points for the season, just outside the top 40 nationally. Cooks paces the team with 15.3 points and nine rebounds per game and added three steals and a pair of blocks against Mars Hill. Winthrop comes into Wednesday sitting tied for 16th in Division I in made 3-pointers (53); Anders Broman has been the biggest contributor in that area, knocking down 11 of his 22 attempts from beyond the arc through four games.
ABOUT AUBURN (3-1): Pearl’s rosy vision for how his team has played so far likely doesn’t include 3-point shooting; the Tigers rank outside the top 200 in Division I with a meager 33 percent success rate from outside. The team’s top two scorers - Bryce Brown (18.3) and Mustapha Heron (12.8) - have been the biggest offenders, shooting a combined 13-for-51 from 3-point range. Presbyterian College transfer DeSean Murray has looked sensational in the early going, averaging 12.3 points and nine rebounds while shooting better than 60 percent both from the field and from 3-point territory.
1. Auburn averages 7.3 blocked shots per game, tied for ninth in the country entering Wednesday’s action.
2. Tigers G Jared Harper was held to one assist against Hofstra after racking up 14 in his previous two games.
3. Cooks has hit just two of his eight 3-point attempts.
PREDICTION: Auburn 86, Winthrop 72