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No. 16 LSU heads to No. 11 Auburn for early conference showdown

Sportsnaut
Dec 22, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Auburn Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl talks to his players during the second half at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 22, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl talks to his players during the second half at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

One of the last remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball is about to face its biggest road test of the season so far. The No.16 LSU Tigers (12-0) will travel to No. 11 Auburn (11-1) on Wednesday night in a heavyweight showdown to open Southeastern Conference play.

LSU is one of just five teams in the country without a loss this season. Auburn’s only loss this season was a 115-109 triple overtime decision against UConn over a month ago. Since then Auburn has won eight consecutive games, and is 6-0 at home on the season. LSU has played almost exclusively at home or on neutral courts this season, with its only road game coming in a 69-53 win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

This will be the first action in a week for both teams after a holiday break. Both teams played and won their last games on Dec. 22, finishing nonconference play with comfortable home wins.

Auburn defeated Murray State 71-58 behind a big game from Wendell Green Jr. off the bench. He played just 19 minutes, but was tied for the team-high in points with 13 and added 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Jabari Smith also added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Walker Kessler scored 13 points. The rebounding numbers were a particular emphasis for Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl and his staff after some struggles in that department throughout the season. The team delivered with a decisive 48-33 advantage on the glass.

“I thought our guys really did a nice job,” Pearl said. “And also the coaching; I’ll give my assistants a lot of credit. We got outrebounded badly at Saint Louis, and Saint Louis was the more physical team. It was important tonight that we do a better job on the boards. Wendell Greene with 10 rebounds, I mean that’s crazy for a guard. Jabari Smith with 10 defensive rebounds, just tremendous. Our rebounding tools were better.”

While Auburn was playing Murray State, LSU took care of business in its final nonconference tune-up game against Lipscomb. All five starters scored in double-figures as LSU won 95-60. Darius Days led the pack with 21 points, followed by Xavier Pinson with 17. The Tigers shot 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from 3-point range, recorded 20 assists and forced 22 turnovers in a comprehensive performance.

But even with the big win, LSU head coach Will Wade is looking for more from his team with the challenging conference schedule looming.

“We just talked about that for about ten minutes in the locker room,” Wade said. “We’re going to have to be much better than we’ve been to go into Auburn and give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

LSU and Auburn met once last season. LSU won 104-80 in Baton Rouge. The last time the two teams met in Auburn was in February of 2020, and the home team won a 91-90 thriller in overtime after overcoming a 15-point deficit.

–Field Level Media