(2017-18 RECORD: 14-1, 2-0 SEC) vs. (2017-18 RECORD: 9-6, 2-1 SEC)
|Sat, Jan 13||2:30 p.m.|
By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- The message from Bruce Pearl to his team this week has been if they don't play well in SEC play, they're going to lose. They were able to battle back Tuesday after a rough first half and beat Ole Miss, but that's not the norm, especially now that No. 22 Auburn has a number in front of its name.
Why was Ole Miss excited about playing Auburn this past week? Because the Rebels had to yet to beat a ranked team, and they had a chance Tuesday night.
Saturday will be no different when Auburn travels to Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 13-3. They have more home wins (12) than any team in college basketball. But only one of those wins came against a ranked team, and those are the wins that matter come March. If Auburn wants to keep its current winning streak intact, there's no margin for error.
"To go down to Mississippi State, we're going to have to play great to have a chance to win," Pearl said. "We've played a lot of great basketball. We're capable of it. But I don't mind putting that pressure on them. I want to put that pressure on them, because that's the reality of it."
The players know what's at stake. They still carry that chip on their shoulder, and their mentality doesn't change regardless of the opponent or whether it's at home or on the road.
"Just keep on pushing," sophomore forward Anfernee McLemore said. "We still have a lot to prove. We haven't done much yet, so our mentality is not go away from what brought us here. Just keep the same mentality and keep rolling."
Saturday's game is scheduled to tip off at 2:30 p.m. CT from Humphrey Coliseum. Rod Bramblett and Sonny Smith will have the radio call on 93.9 Tiger FM, online at AuburnTigers.com and on the TuneIn app. The game will also be televised on SEC Network with Richard Cross and Barry Booker on the call.
Player to watch: Bryce Brown
In his third season in an Auburn uniform, Bryce Brown has elevated his play on both ends of the floor. Brown has increased his scoring output to 15.6 points per game, which more than doubles his average last season (7.5). In the lone meeting with Mississippi State last year, the junior guard scored 18 points, including four makes from downtown.
Inside the series: Mississippi State
Auburn holds a slight 75-69 advantage in the rivalry all-time. The Bulldogs are 43-25 in Starkville, however, including a 28-12 advantage at Humphrey Coliseum. The last time the Tigers won at Mississippi State was 2009.
Pearl has had success against the Bulldogs in his career. He's 7-4 versus Mississippi State with three of those wins coming as the head coach of Auburn.
Auburn's 13-game winning streak is the longest since Dec. 1, 1999 to Jan. 19, 2000 (won 14 straight), and it marks the second-longest active streak in the country (West Virginia, 15). This is also the program's best start (15-1) since the 1999-2000 season.
In good company
With no undefeated teams remaining in college basketball, Auburn is one of just four teams left -- and the only SEC team -- to have suffered only one loss on the season. The other three (Villanova, West Virginia, Virginia) are currently ranked 1, 2 and 3 in this week's AP poll.
On this date
On Jan. 13, 1984, Auburn won its fourth straight game to open SEC play by defeating second-ranked Kentucky at home by a score of 82-63 under former head coach and current radio color analyst Sonny Smith. That win served as the highest ranked opponent the Tigers had defeated until they beat No. 1 Kentucky four years later.
Auburn holds a 12-11 record all-time on Jan. 13 and have won four of its last five games on that date.
Vote for Coach Pearl
Click here to vote for Bruce Pearl and Children's Harbor in the Coaches Charity Challenge. The coach with the most votes after four rounds wins $100,000 for their charity. Each charity will receive money for every round their representative coach is voted through.
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @greg_ostendorf