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T.J. Dunans on point as Auburn goes for sweep of Alabama
Feb. 26, 2016

T.J. Dunans has brought some energy to Auburn as it heads to Alabama
T.J. Dunans has brought some energy to Auburn as it heads to Alabama

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. ― Coach Bruce Pearl says his ever-changing lineup, on this day, is one that gives Auburn a chance down the stretch.

The return of point guard T.J. Dunans from a knee injury brought energy to the Tigers in Wednesday's 84-81 win over Georgia, and Pearl is hoping for more of the same when Auburn attempts a season sweep of Alabama when it visits Coleman Coliseum at 4 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network.

Pearl also said Friday that forward Tyler Harris may return to the lineup Saturday after missing the Georgia game after suffering a concussion two games back.

"We've got eight guys now who can play, and that gives us a fighting chance," Pearl said.

Auburn's revolving door has been well documented. Guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen played five games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, Dunans missed 15 games after hurting his knee before returning two games ago, leading scorer Kareem Canty was suspended and left the team six games ago and Danjel Purifoy hasn't played all year because of an eligibility issue.

"It's been a challenge," said guard TJ Lang, who had a career-best 21 points against Georgia. "Just having so many people go down it helped us because we’ve had so many different people step up and different people had to play different roles."

Auburn beat Alabama 83-77 in Auburn Arena on Jan. 19. Canty scored 25 that night. Dunans didn't play. It'll be a role reversal Saturday in Coleman Coliseum, the first of the final three regular-season games of the season.

"Having T.J. Dunans back gives us a guard who can create," Pearl said. "He's a guy instinctively makes others better. He's a willing passer and he understands spacing and he's got some abilities to break the defense down. The timing of his return puts us in a position where we're able to conjure up some more competitiveness. How many victories that leads to, I don't know. It was good enough to beat Georgia at home. The schedule gets tougher the last three regular-season games."

Pearl has tried all sorts of players running the point this season, even power forward Cinmeon Bowers, who was a willing participant. But Dunans is a slasher who can drive to the basket, then pass the ball out to an open shooter.

Dunans got everybody involved against Georgia when five players set at least one personal best, either in scoring, rebounds or assists.

"With eight guys now, can we get to be playing our best basketball? That's the question," Pearl said. "Now, we have enough pieces to be competitive, and that's a good thing."

Pearl said Harris, the team's leading scorer after the departure of Canty, is "likely, maybe probable."

Pearl said a Friday practice would determine if Harris will be cleared to play.

"If he can get through some running and some pounding, and he did a little bit yesterday, then I'd say probable, probably."

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


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