AUBURN, Ala. — The Auburn basketball team faced a strict schedule after its 74-70 win against Oklahoma on Wednesday night.
The players had little time to celebrate before heading back to meet curfew because less than 48 hours later the team was scheduled to play its third game this week.
Auburn (9-2) is off to its best start since 2007-08. The Tigers will oppose UConn (5-5) Friday afternoon.
Before Austin Wiley joined the team last week, Auburn would have been undersized. Now, Bruce Pearl’s team is benefitting from the presence of its 6-foot-11 center, who made his first-ever college start on Wednesday evening.
Pearl’s squad is also benefitting from the leadership of senior guard T.J. Dunans, who has scored 13 and then a career-high 21 points through the Tigers’ last two games. And, as has been the case since Auburn’s home opener, the team is getting consistency from true freshman Mustapha Heron.
Still, starting four freshmen comes with its issues. Pearl said his starting group botched the first few plays after the tip-off against Oklahoma. And the Huskies will present their own set of challenges.
Auburn’s two games in Connecticut could end up helping the Tigers with their postseason résumé. With one game down, Pearl’s team has one more to go before heading home for some time with its families.
Still, the importance of the matchup on Friday is evident, even having earned two straight wins this week.
“It’s a litmus test, again. Are we going to be a postseason tournament team or not? And I know it’s early in our development, but this is going to be a real challenge and a real test and a real opportunity,” Pearl said. “I think the second thing is going to be how do we fare for the league in the sense that our league continues to need some quality wins to help us when it comes to postseason, and so we carry that banner and that torch as well. So, no, I don’t think you could overplay the opportunity here.”
Auburn basketball this afternoon
Projected starting 5
* Blocks per game