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Welcome to the rivalry: Bruce Pearl readies for Alabama
Jan. 23, 2015

Auburn's Bruce Pearl is looking for a bounce-back performance at Alabama

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Bruce Pearl says he loves rivalries. 

You, sir, have come to the right place.

Pearl will face Alabama for the first time as Auburn's basketball coach at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Coleman Coliseum, but he's no stranger to the Crimson Tide. He's 5-3 all-time against Alabama, including a win in the NCAA Tournament when he was at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is 2-1 in Tuscaloosa from his days at Tennessee.

But it'll be a whole new ballgame, now that he's thrown into the Auburn-Alabama rivalry.

"Go back to your high school and think about your high school rivalry and how important it meant to the people in your community or your town or in this case your state. I understand that and I understand the responsibility that comes along with it and I look forward to it," Pearl said. "We are going to have a rivalry with them on the court. We are going to have a rivalry with them in recruiting because both Coach (Anthony) Grant and myself are committed to recruiting the best local players in the state."

Auburn hasn't had a first-year coach beat Alabama since Bill Lynn did it in the 1963-64 season. The last first-year Auburn to win in Tuscaloosa was Joel Eaves in 1950.

Auburn and Alabama are both coming off disappointing losses. Auburn cut an 18-point deficit to two points with two minutes to play before losing to Mississippi State 78-71 Wednesday. Alabama lost to Arkansas 93-91 in overtime Thursday.

Auburn is 10-8 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama is 12-6 overall and 2-3 in the league. 

"We have to pick ourselves back up and see if we can continue to improve and get better. That’s been inconsistent," Pearl said.

Auburn guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen is questionable after hurting his left shoulder Wednesday. He's played with an injured right shoulder almost all year.

"Even though it just went out, slightly, briefly, although painfully, it is in a much better state than the right one was," Pearl said. "His first one was a lot more severe. He has a chance to play on Saturday."

Shamsid-Deen or not, Pearl is ready to jump into another rivalry.

"I've had great rivalries. When I was coaching at Southern Indiana, Kentucky Wesleyan was our rivalry," he said. "When I was at Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed like pretty much everyone was our rival. 

"At Tennessee, it was Vanderbilt and Kentucky, probably were our biggest rivals. 

"You want to win them all, but there is no team I want to beat more than Alabama in the SEC because I am Auburn's coach. That's how I feel, that’s how our fans feel."

All the details on the game are here.

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



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