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There's a lot to play for when Auburn meets Alabama
Feb. 16, 2015

Antoine Mason arrived in time to help Auburn beat Georgia

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Antoine Mason showed up just in the nick of time to help Auburn beat Georgia on Saturday. Now, coach Bruce Pearl is playing catch up with his guard who had been with his ailing father in New York.

That's because Pearl figures he'll need everybody at their best when the Tigers meet Alabama at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Auburn Arena. 

"He worked out hard yesterday because he had a week off. He kind of liked that," Pearl said.

Mason had been with his father, former NBA standout Anthony Mason, at his bedside in a New York hospital after a heart attack, but the younger Mason flew into Atlanta early Saturday morning, then was driven to Athens, in time to help Auburn beat Georgia 69-68.

Tuesday, the Tigers are looking to even the score against the Tide, which beat Auburn 57-55 in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 24. A win would push Auburn to a .500 record at 13-13, and that, Pearl said, "keeps us in the loop for post season."

Auburn is 4-8 in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama is 15-10 overall and 5-7 in the league.

"I want to be open and honest with them and let them know what is at stake," Pearl said. "We need to build that foundation, make a mark and change the culture."

Mason didn't start against Georgia (he didn't even get the game plan until a couple of hours before the game), but could be back in a lineup that will still have to deal with the loss of guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who is bound for double shoulder surgery.

Pearl is happy to have Mason back.

 "I don't think there was any question in his mind whether he would come back, but there was in mine," Pearl said. "When he left after the Arkansas game, his dad was touch and go... He survived, but he has a long road of things that have to happen before he can leave that hospital."

Pearl said after Saturday's game that Mason wanted to be with his Auburn teammates. On more practical terms, Mason is working his way back on offense after missing time last week.

"Your timing gets affected more offensively than it does anywhere else. He played hard defensively. He doesn't always play as hard defensively as he is capable of. Not only his returning, but his returning and playing with effort and energy spoke a lot to his teammates.

"KT (Harrell), as a senior was grateful. For K.C. (Ross- Miller) and Antoine to be able to play together, down the stretch, in meaningful roles is, hopefully, something that they are enjoying and welcoming this challenge."

Harrell hit the go-ahead shot with 59 seconds left against Georgia and scored 15 of his team-high 21 points in the second half. The comeback win should prove to be a boost, he said.

"You know we are a confident team even though we've lost some games that we felt like we should've won," Harrell said. "I think it felt really good to go out there and get a win against a really good Georgia team."

Charles Goldberg is Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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