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'Enjoy the opportunity': Bruce Pearl readies for Kentucky
Jan. 15, 2016

Auburn's Bruce Pearl will send his shorthanded lineup against Kentucky on Saturday
Auburn's Bruce Pearl will send his shorthanded lineup against Kentucky on Saturday

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. ― The promise of outside shooter Kareem Canty teaming with the steady Tahj Shamsid-Deen in Auburn's backcourt is officially over this season.

Coach Bruce Pearl said Friday the Tigers will instead make do, mix and match, and figure out how to play without Shamsid-Deen, who will have shoulder surgery next week. Pearl also said he would deal with the continued loss of guard T.J. Dunans after he had a procedure on his knee that may cost him the rest of the year as well.

All of that comes as the backdrop for No. 14 Kentucky's visit to Auburn Arena for a 3 p.m. game Saturday that will be televised by ESPN.

"We've just got to step it up off the court and on the court," said forward Cinmeon Bowers.

Pearl said the prospect of playing Canty and Shamsid-Deen together "was really exciting" as the season approached. Alas, Pearl said Shamsid-Deen "never made it to the exhibition season" before hurting his shoulder. He reinjured twice once the season began and is now lost for the season.

Auburn has been reinventing itself most of the season, anyway. Auburn newcomers account for 72.7 percent of the scoring. Canty, a newcomer, is one of the SEC's top scorers at 18.5 points per game. Tyler Harris, a transfer, is averaging 14.9 points per game. Kentucky has a different kind of roster as well after having six players drafted off last year's team.

Pearl said his "heart goes out" to Shamsid-Deen, who had surgery on both shoulders last season, and had battled back with designs on playing all the way this year. 

More on the injuries here.

Shamsid-Deen made it through five games this year and now his basketball future is uncertain.

"We have to make sure that he's not only healthy to return to play, but also healthy to continue for the rest of his life. It's really difficult," Pearl said.

Pearl said Dunans had a procedure on his injured knee to "fix some leaks."

"It pushes his return date out to very late in the season with the possibility of not being able to return," Pearl said.

And now the best team in the SEC comes to town.

"It's one of those games, and I don't think we should mind this, I think we should look forward to seeing the talent, the size, the depth of some of our opponents, and love basketball and enjoy the opportunity that we have to challenge them and play them here at home," Pearl said.

Pearl has had to turn to his bench more since Shamsid-Deen departed after the eighth game of the season. Dunans was injured two games later. Winning more playing time at guard have been TJ Lang, Bryce Brown, New Williams and Patrick Keim. Jordon Granger has played a bigger role, too, as a forward.

Williams returned from a knee injury two games ago.

"I'd love to see New take advantage of the opportunity, continue to learn more about team defenses," Pearl said. "He'll be in the rotation, but I don’t anticipate he'll play more than 10 minutes, but continue to rehab to get that leg stronger."

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


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