By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – LaRon Smith knows what the Georgia State basketball is thinking.
Sneak into Auburn. Upset an SEC team. Get out of town.
The Auburn forward knows this because, not so long ago, he played for Georgia State before making his trek to the Tigers as a graduate transfer this season.
"For them, this is a very big game," Smith says. "When you are in that level, you look forward to this type of game. These are the games that you hope you catch a high major sleeping. You try and come in and win and go very hard."
The Tigers, winners in the season-opener against North Florida on Friday, meet Georgia State at 8 p.m. Monday in Auburn Arena as part of the Cancun Challenge.
"It is a great opportunity to get to play against the first school I went to," Smith said. "I had a lot of hard times at that school, but I am glad that I overcame it, and it should be a very good game and very fun for me."
Smith played at Georgia State for two seasons between 2012-14. He played at Bethune Cookman last season where he tied for third in the country in blocks.
Smith and the new-look Tigers streaked to a 30-point lead early in the second half on the way to 13 3-pointers against North Florida. Alas, the Tigers couldn't keep up that pace and won 83-66. "But I thought, overall, it was a pretty good effort," said coach Bruce Pearl on Sunday.
The Tigers successfully meshed their newcomers with their veterans in the game. Sophomore Bryce Brown led Auburn with 19 points. Freshmen Danjel Purifoy, Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper combined for 34 points. Brown, Purifoy, Heron and Harper combined for 10 3-pointers. TJ Lang got the other three.
"There are going to be about two months of teaching moments with this team because it’s so young," Pearl said. "So, every practice is a teaching moment and every game is a teaching moment. But the thing about the teaching is how much are we going to learn? How much are we going to grow from that experience?"
Pearl said it's not easy playing for him because of multiple offensive and defensive sets, though he doesn't mind guys shooting. Not at all.
"While we play fast and we give the guys freedom, we also do a lot of things, and so it takes a lot of time and a lot of teaching, and so that’s part of the reason about being new why there are some challenges," Pearl said.
Georgia State is also 1-0 after beating Thomas University 111-69 Friday. The Panthers start transfers from Indiana, Alabama and Charlotte. Auburn will counter with three starting freshmen in Purifoy, Heron and Harper; plus Brown and sophomore Horace Spencer.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine