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Bruce Pearl says Auburn needs to build on win over Xavier
Dec. 21, 2014

Jordon Granger fired up the Auburn Arena crowd on Saturday night with this dunk

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Bruce Pearl happily, famously threw his sport coat in the air when the game ended, and Auburn players made friends when they greeted fans as they left the arena.

Auburn's 89-88 double-overtime upset win over Xavier on Saturday night had Auburn Arena rocking, from the start of the Tigers' 14-point comeback in regulation, to the final seconds in the second overtime.

Pearl said the Tigers were deserving of the win as they mesh into a new system with new players, some barely a week on the team. 

"We can't celebrate too much. We have to keep it in perspective," warned the Auburn coach.

The recent improvement, and for Auburn moving to 5-5 on the season with two straight wins, has been aided by the addition of two players who can work inside. Take 7-foot-2 Trayvon Reed. He played his first game last Sunday. In the two games since, he has seven blocks and 13 rebounds. Take Alex Thompson. He's played two games and has 16 points and eight rebounds. 

On a team that had been short on scholarship players, that had trouble scoring, they have provided depth for KT Harrell, Antoine Mason, Cinmeon Bowers and the rest. The trio of Harrell, Mason and Bowers, by the way, have combined for 99 points and 40 rebounds the last two games.

But you never know. Malcolm Canada had the best game of his Auburn career when he scored 15 points, including the game-winner at the free throw line, to help beat Xavier.

Texas Southern is next, ready for a visit on Tuesday night, and, like Auburn, fresh off an upset win. Texas Southern stunned home-standing and No. 25 Michigan State 71-65 overtime win Saturday night for just its second win of the year.

Auburn is looking to finish December on a high note after winning the second of five non-conference home games before opening SEC play at Vanderbilt.

Pearl called the win over Xavier big for the Southeastern Conference, especially for when bids are awarded at tournament time in March. As for Auburn, there's still much to be done.

"It doesn't say anything about where we are going," Pearl said.  "It just says that this group of guys want to dig in. They are building that foundation for the future, but this group wants to dig in and see if it can be nationally relevant this year. Wins like that will obviously help. But we have to build on this. We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go, but this will certainly make us feel good about ourselves. As hard as they train, I think they deserve that."

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



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