By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's been to Mexico, will play in Birmingham this weekend and then will go to New York for a game Dec 12. The only home game in this month of travel?
Tuesday at 7 p.m. against South Carolina Upstate in Auburn Arena.
"We've got a lot of work to do yet still, but we're excited about being back from a couple of days of Thanksgiving break and getting back to the grind," said coach Bruce Pearl on Monday.
Auburn went 1-1 in his trip to the Cancun Challenge against quality opponents in Texas Tech and Purdue. The Tigers are 4-1 overall. Upstate is 3-3.
Auburn will again start three freshmen and two sophomores as they continue to find each other. The freshmen have started well enough. Danjel Purifoy, Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper are each averaging in double figures. Fellow freshman Anfernee McLemore is 7-for-7 from the field. But there's been playing time for most everybody. Seven players are averaging at least 18 minutes a game. No one is averaging 30.
Mexico was a place for the young and old to bond.
"We had a great trip," Pearl said. "At times, we showed how young we are. There's no denying it. But we were still able to survive Texas Tech's comeback and played even with Purdue for about 28 minutes or something like that. But I thought our youth showed a little bit.
"But I thought the chemistry was good. I thought the guys were trying to compete and support one another. Like we said, will teams get better throughout the season or will they just survive it? And that's my focus and my challenge. We've got to keep on improving and keep on getting better. We've got plenty of room."
Auburn, which isn't the tallest team around, held its own against Texas Tech, losing the rebounding margin 34-31. But Purdue outrebounded Auburn 39-23. Upstate's best rebounder doesn't start, but he is a 7-footer. Michael Buchanan is averaging 8.5 rebounds per game. "Load down on the inside," Pearl said. Auburn's top rebounder is Heron, a 6-5 guard.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
Auburn plays USC Upstate on Tuesday. 'Will teams get better throughout the season or just survive it? That's my challenge,' says Bruce Pearl pic.twitter.com/xXH2Dm0O6u
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) November 28, 2016