Auburn's Malcolm Canada goes up against Jere Vucica
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Bruce Pearl said he didn't like the way his Auburn basketball team played in its final tune-up before SEC play, and who could blame him?
Malcolm Canada and KT Harrell couldn't.
Auburn beat North Alabama 82-61 after trailing late into the first half and nursing a 32-30 halftime advantage as it moved to its SEC opener at Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The Tigers came out flat against its Division II opponent, perhaps due to injuries that changed the lineup.
"We're not good enough for me to have to coach effort, and tonight I had to," Pearl said.
Auburn still did what it needed to do in late December. It closed out the month winning five straight games in Auburn Arena to improve to 8-5. North Alabama is 5-6.
Pearl, who coached Division II Southern Indiana for nine years, said he was happy to give North Alabama a chance to play on a bigger stage. Auburn's players were slower to come around.
"You have to honor the game. You have to play the game with great consistency," Pearl said.
Canada said he understood Pearl's Saturday frustration.
"As a coach, you shouldn't have to coach effort," he said. "He should be disappointed. We should be disappointed in ourselves."
"He wasn't pleased," Harrell said. "We've got to get better, that's the bottom line."
The stats suggested the game was OK. Harrell matched his career-high with 25 points. Cinmeon Bowers matched his career high with 20 points. Antoine Mason continued to regain his shooting touch with 18 points.
Auburn held out guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen who is nursing a sore shoulder. Jordon Granger only played four minutes after complaining about a sore knee and hamstring. Big center Trayvon Reed played only 10 minutes and had 2 points and 3 rebounds.
"Trayvon has to earn more time. He played 10 minutes, and I would like to see him play more. He has got to be more productive," Pearl said.
On the bright side, Pearl said the play of K.C. Ross-Miller and Malcolm Canada was "pretty good."
"Malcolm's minutes have been creeping up because I have been playing him at some four. It is going to be interesting to see how much I can do that in the SEC when we go up against these monsters and all this size. We have to figure out ways to take advantage of him as we continue to move forward."
Auburn is at Vandy at 8 p.m. Tuesday before returning to Auburn Arena for a 6 p.m. game against Missouri next Saturday.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine