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Bonding experience: Auburn ready for Cancun Challenge
Ronnie Johnson says Auburn can come together as a team in Mexico
Nov. 21, 2016

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- They made the plane reservations, and that was good. And they packed the basketball, and that was good. And they made sure to apply for passports.

Where are the passports?

"Some of the passports didn't come through. They got lost in the mail," said Auburn guard Ronnie Johnson. But Auburn fixed that sometime back, got on the plane and flew to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge. The Tigers will begin that when they play Texas Tech at 5 p.m. Central time Tuesday in a game that will be televised by CBS Sports Net. Auburn will play either Purdue or Utah State on Wednesday.

This is the Tigers' first game away from Auburn Arena, and the first regular-season game in foreign country in school history. Johnson, a graduate transfer who scored his 1,000th college point in Auburn's win last Friday, said the five-day, two-game trip gives the Tigers an opportunity to get to know each other.

"I think it's definitely going to help us. We're going to be down there a long time, so we're going to have a lot of time to bond and talk and get focused in on these games and the rest of the season, too," he said.

Johnson has been around, and may get a chance to play one of his former teams in Purdue in Cancun on Wednesday. He came off the bench and scored 13 points in last Friday's 85-64 win over Eastern Kentucky. Pearl said he was impressed with Johnson's steady play.

"Look at Auburn football, look at our defense, those guys are very talented, but they really rely on each other," Pearl said. "If we can ever get anywhere close to that, we could become a pretty good basketball team.

"When Ronnie steps up and, again, keeps his attitude just gives the team confidence because we've got a couple of good point guards."

Auburn won its first three game by at least 15 points for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Texas Tech promises to be a different challenge. Auburn and Texas Tech are both 3-0.

"Texas Tech is a good team, a very good team, and I think they're going to be an outstanding team," said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.

Pearl said Texas Tech, which played in the NCAA Tournament last season, may be "the oldest team in the country. They have juniors and seniors, and the juniors are 22 and 23; and the seniors are 22 and 23 and 24 and they're older and they've been around awhile."

Auburn is anything but old. The Tigers are expected to again start three freshmen and two sophomores.

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

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