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Celebration over: Auburn basketball returns to work
Dec. 22, 2014

KT Harrell and Alex Thompson were on the go for Auburn against Xavier

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Bruce Pearl won his biggest basketball game of the season in a double-overtime victory over Xavier on Saturday night.

Alas, Texas Southern matched Auburn all the way.

Auburn's upset win over the Musketeers was mirrored by Texas Southern, which knocked off then-No. 25 Michigan State on the road. Luckily for this story, Auburn and Texas Southern play at 7 Tuesday night and Pearl says "they are not going to be intimidated by coming into Auburn Arena." Here's why: Texas Southern is only 2-8, but are road warriors to the tune of playing only one of its first nine games at home. They've been to Michigan State and Florida and Gonzaga and Baylor and wherever coach Mike Davis has taken them.

Pearl isn't sure where the win over Xavier will take Auburn, now 5-5, but, in the short term, "it's been a little merrier."  Pearl, too, is in the holiday spirit, sharing good cheer, and wanting fans to share their tickets if need be.

"Don't put them in stockings because the game is the 23rd not the 26th or 27th," he said. "Give them away to some people that haven’t seen us play to get a chance to come see us play."

Pearl said after last Saturday's win the fans had reason to celebrate. Thirty-six hours later, Pearl was plotting to beat Texas Southern and said his team must put Saturday's win behind it. "There's nothing really is to celebrate except that maybe they have a little bit more confidence in each other and maybe they have more confidence in what we do and that it can work."

KT Harrell, the SEC's player of the week, says the comeback win over Xavier is noteworthy.

"I think the most important thing was that we stayed together," Harrell said. "We were down 13 at the half, and I am pretty sure they thought they would be able to just come in here and beat us down, especially at halftime. They had a lot of momentum, but we stayed together. We never thought we couldn't win the game. I think it was important for us to go through that."

Auburn has consistently been led by Harrell, the SEC's leading scorer, and Bowers, he of six double-doubles who leads the league in rebounding. But there's more on a team that is working in more players, like Antoine Mason, back from an ankle injury that cost him six games; like Malcolm Canada, who had his best Auburn game against Xavier; like Alex Thompson, who's experience this season is the last two games; and like 7-foot-2 center Trayvon Reed, who has seven blocks and 13 rebounds in the last two games.

He's only played in three.

"He has gotten so much better in such a short amount of time," Harrell said. "The way he blocks shots and his timing is crazy. His length and athleticism brings a different dynamic to this team. He is just willing to learn and get better. It helps us out a lot."

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



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