AUBURN, Ala. — Bruce Pearl will remember the events of the last few days on the Plains for years to come.
First, surrounded by visiting friends and family, the head coach earned his 500th win when his Tigers beat LSU in Auburn Arena last Wednesday night. Auburn then emerged victorious in its second must-win game of the week, beating arch-rival Alabama by a 20-point margin.
“It was a great weekend. It was one of my better weekends at Auburn, just personally,” Pearl said. “From the standpoint of getting Danjel (Purifoy) back, watching Austin (Wiley) in his first game against Alabama have such a dominant effort, see the team continue to come together. We didn’t back away from the fact that these were games we needed to get to stay in position to do what we want to do, and that’s get this team to postseason.”
Yet, as much a Pearl enjoyed the electric atmosphere and his team’s continued growth, he has limited time to enjoy it, just like his team can’t spend time dreaming of the postseason.
The Tigers’ reward for beating LSU and Alabama is a grand prize trip to Columbia, S.C., where they’ll have to try to shut down one of the SEC’s most productive players (with one of the most creative names).
“(Sindarius) Thornwell has become one of the league’s very best players,” Pearl said of the former Oak Hill Academy standout. “He’s a great example of a guy that paid his dues. … He wasn’t a one and done or two and done or anything like that; there was not a lot of discussion about that. He just kept on grinding and getting better. He’s going to be a good pro.”
Thornwell won’t be the only issue in Colonial Life Arena, though.
Before their latest game at Rupp Arena, the No. 23 Gamecocks were undefeated in conference play. Frank Martin’s team leads the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.272) and is eighth in scoring defense (60.7 points per game).
“Obviously, defensively they are terrific,” Pearl said. “They’re also really physical offensively. The way they screen and pin down and they way they post … You’ve got to handle South Carolina’s pressure. You’ve got to be able to try to score without turning the ball over. You just have to buckle your chinstrap.”
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET.
Auburn basketball Tuesday
Projected starting 5
* Blocks per game
Auburn vs. South Carolina game details, time, TV channel
South Carolina (15-4 5-1 SEC) vs. Auburn (13-6, 3-4 SEC)
Game time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, S.C.
TV: SEC Network
How to watch online: SECNetwork.com
Follow live stats: GameTracker