AUBURN, Alabama–Auburn basketball team will look to continue to improve its shooting percentages, something that started in a Tuesday night victory, when the Tigers play host to Texas Southern. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm CST on Friday at Neville Arena.
Auburn came into its Tuesday night game vs. Winthrop shooting just 36.6 percent from the field and a frigid 18.0 percent from three-point range with just nine made treys. The Tigers doubled their number of threes made for the season in the 89-65 victory over Winthrop and improved their overall shooting percentage to 40.3 percent. The three-point percentage climbed to 24.7 percent.
“I think it has been an offensive struggle with the three-point shooting,” said guard Zep Jasper. “I think the rims have been a little tight, but as the season keeps moving forward I think we will get better at three-point shooting. I think teams will stop packing in the lane and start defending us on the three-point line, and it’ll open up our offense.”
Defensively, the Tigers are holding opponents to 58.7 points per game. Jasper said there is room for improvement with that aspect of the team. The “super senior” said his team needs to have “better urgency” transitioning from offense to defense to prevent fastbreak opportunities.
junior guard Wendell Green is leading the Tigers in scoring at 17.3 points per game and is averaging 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Johni Broome is the top rebounder at 9.0 per game
Auburn will bring a 3-0 record into the contest that is being streamed on SEC+. Texas Southern, an NCAA Tournament team the previous two seasons and the favorite to win another SWAC championship, is 1-4 so far facing a demanding early season schedule.
coach Johnny Jones likes to challenge his Texas Southern teams with a tough pre-conference schedule and has done it again. His team opened on the West Coast with a 90-77 loss to the San Francisco Dons. The Tigers lost 74-58 at Texas Tech before earning a 67-66 home victory over Arizona State.
Texas Southern then lost 82-64 to visiting Oral Roberts and on Wednesday night traveled across town to play one of the country’s top teams, the University of Houston Cougars, who took an 83-48 victory.
Pearl pointed out that teams from the SWAC have victories over two other Pac-12 teams (Colorado and Washington State) this year and last season Texas Southern won at Florida, a place where his team dropped its game to the Gators.
“They have played an unbelievable schedule,” Pearl said. “They have already played at least three NCAA Tournament teams so they are not going to be intimidated. They are older, they are extremely well coached. It will be a big challenge for us. An advantage for us is they did play (Wednesday) night vs. Houston.”
Seven of TSU’s players are transferred from Division I or junior college programs. That group includes PJ Henry, the leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, a 5-10, 175 senior who made the move from Hartford. He is averaging 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
John Walker, III, has 6-9, 200 graduate transfer from Texas A&M, is averaging 12.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Two other TSU players are averaging in double figures for points. Davon Barnes, a 6-6, 215 sophomore forward, is contributing 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest. Zytarious Mortle, a 6-2, 199 freshman guard, is averaging 10.7 points and 3.3 rebounds.
“They will expose (us),” Pearl predicted. “They have got some really, really dynamic one-on-one players that can really make plays in space.”
Auburn Hoops Notes: Auburn is 4-0 in games vs. Texas Southern with the most recent matchup an 80-63 score in December 2020. Each of the games has been played in Auburn…Texas Southern’s head coach is a former player and head coach at LSU. “He is not afraid to play anybody,” Aubun coach Bruce Pearl said. “He has a bunch of guys who have been with him for a few years and they know how to play together. They guard really well, they are smart, they are handsy, they do a great job checking out (defensive rebounding) and they only give 25 percent second-chance points….Auburn is ranked 13th in the AP Top 25 this week and for a second consecutive period the team is 15th in the coaches poll…Auburn is in a busy stretch of its schedule with two games in Cancun next week, a total of four contests over a 12-day period…Auburn’s depth received a boost on Tuesday night with the regular season start of freshman Luck Westry, who scored five points while adding two rebounds and two assists in his first regular season college game. Pearl said the plan is to use 10-11 guys in the playing rotation. Westry, who has recovered from knee surgery, played more than 16 minutes vs. Winthrop and the roster has 11 guys averaging at least 10 minutes of short time per contest with Green the leader at 25, just ahead of Jasper’s 24.7 minutes per game.
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