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Injuries part of Auburn's game as Tigers head to Vandy
Jan. 11, 2016

Tyler Harris keeps playing tough inside for Auburn
Tyler Harris keeps playing tough inside for Auburn

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. ― Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has been given every opportunity to tinker with his lineup, considering all the injuries he's dealt with; considering he's trying to bring a little firepower off the bench with Cinmeon Bowers.

"I can't even begin to tell you all of the different things we've thought about as far as rotations and positions, including going bigger," Pearl says.

Big or small, Auburn will try to beat Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Nashville in a game on ESPNU in which both teams are looking to turn around their SEC fortunes. Auburn is 7-7 overall and 1-2 in the league. Vanderbilt, one of the league's preseason favorites, is 8-7 overall and 0-3 in the conference.

Auburn wants to change history and to slow Vandy's two 7-footers: The Commodores have beaten Auburn 10 straight times, and the Tigers haven't won in Memorial Gymnasium since 2000.

Alas, Pearl will play with a shorthanded bench. He got back one injured guard in New Williams for limited playing time in Saturday's loss at Missouri, but he's still missing guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunans, who are injured; and is still without guard Danjel Purifoy, who has not been cleared to play. Auburn lack of depth showed at Missouri when the Tigers were outscored 40-5 in points off the bench.

Pearl said the future availability of Shamsid-Deen, who has been plagued by shoulder injuries throughout his career, may be known soon.

"He's got one more exam when we get back from Vanderbilt, so I would expect some finality when we get back," Pearl said. Dunans could be out another month with a knee injury.

"When Tahj got hurt, next man up Kareem Canty. When T.J. Dunans got hurt, next man up Bryce Brown," Pearl said. "The problem would then be who's in behind those guys? And so then as a result, we are really getting hurt off the bench not having enough contribution."

Tyler Harris has played on. He's scored, in order, 19, 22 and 21 points in SEC games.

"It's just a matter of guys stepping up and filling in those roles where guys are hurt and for us just to continue to come closer together as a team so that we can accomplish the bigger picture," Harris said.

Pearl said there's frustration with the losses, but "I can definitely point to progress, certain wins at certain times. UAB is going to have a great year, and they are an NCAA Tournament team. That was an important win for us. New Mexico will compete in the Mountain West. We've won a road game at Coastal Carolina. Auburn hadn't beaten Tennessee since 2007 or 2008. I can look at progress. I can look at recruiting. I can look at how we are drawing. I can also look at what I perceive as there is patience in the community understanding our situation."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:


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