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'Staying together' - Auburn basketball, minus Danjel Purifoy, ready for Rupp Arena
Auburn junior TJ Lang has advice for his freshman teammates about road trips to Rupp.
Jan. 13, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - The only non-freshman in Auburn's starting lineup, junior TJ Lang is the voice of experience for his young teammates when it comes to playing in the SEC's most storied basketball venue.

"Playing in Rupp Arena, once they get a run going, it's hard to stop it because their fans get involved and it's a lot of people and the momentum goes in their favor a lot," Lang said. "The main thing we have to do is make sure we don't turn the ball over, and try to limit their transition points and highlight plays as much as possible."

After earning its first SEC win at Missouri on Tuesday, Auburn (11-5, 1-3) plays at No. 6 Kentucky (14-2, 4-0) Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPN

"It's always fun," Lang said. "Especially to go to Kentucky and play. The atmosphere is going to be crazy. We're a young team so we're going to be tested early. We've just got to go in and come out with as much intensity as possible. Try to hit them in the mouth first."

For the second straight game, Auburn will be without second-leading scorer Danjel Purifoy, who injured his left ankle last Saturday against Ole Miss.

"It hurts us a lot. Danjel, he's instant offense," Lang said. "When he doesn't have it on offense, he can also do other things, like in the UConn game, grabbing 15 rebounds. He's versatile offensively and defensively. He's a nightmare matchup for any team. We've just got to find a way to bounce back. Just kind of hold it down until he comes back."

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl says Purifoy's return could happen sooner than initially anticipated.

"He is out of the boot and moving around and progressing faster than we thought when originally diagnosed," Pearl said.



Auburn's 77-72 victory over Missouri gave the Tigers a record of 3-1 on the road this season.

"We were very pleased with the win, and to get our first SEC road win," Pearl said. "Our locker room is really good. Our guys are staying together through the adversity of losing our first three SEC games."

Now comes the ultimate challenge: Kentucky's star-studded lineup. Like Auburn, the Wildcats feature four freshmen in their starting lineup, including Malik Monk, the SEC's leading scorer at 21.7 points per game.

"It is beautiful basketball to watch," Pearl said of the Cats' unselfish, up-tempo style. "There are going to be guys in the NBA for a long, long time. People in the SEC, I don't know that we appreciate having Kentucky in our league just for the ability to watch them play."

Kentucky (56.8) and Auburn (49.4) rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the country in freshman scoring.

The Tigers return to Auburn Arena next week to play LSU Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Alabama Saturday at 3 p.m.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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