Coming off back-to-back wins away from home against mid-major powers Middle Tennessee State and Murray State, Auburn will return home Saturday to host one of the most recognizable programs in the country.
The Tigers will host UConn, who has won four national titles since 1999, at 1:30 p.m. CST on Saturday.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity on Saturday,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “There are still some tickets left. With the students on break, the department made a great decision offering tickets to non-students to be able to sit in the Jungle, and kind of relive their college days. I don’t expect anyone to take their shirt off and paint their chest orange, or anything like that, but I wouldn’t mind it.
“ESPN2 is going to be here Saturday. They’re only coming three times this year – this is one of them. So I’m really hoping that this is a different environment, that people get here early, it’s a 1:30 tip, and that this crowd is electric, because it’s hard for Auburn to get teams like UConn to come to Auburn, Alabama to play us.”
UConn, who fell to No. 18 Arizona 73-58 Thursday night, will pose a major threat to Auburn in the post as the Huskies hold a major size advantage over the Tigers.
“UConn has got eight guys 6’8" or bigger,” Pearl said. “We have two with Horace and Chuma (Okeke), so they’ve got a size advantage. And they’ve just got a great player. Jalen Adams is a great player. They’ve got other pieces as well, but he’s special. We’re going to have to do the best job we can to contain him and understand the other pieces that they have, they’re deep. The only teams they’ve lost to are marquee teams. They beat Oregon, which is a great win for them. It should be a great opportunity for us.”
Auburn defeated UConn 70-67 last season in a dramatic overtime game. Jared Harper scored a game-high 22 points vs. the Huskies last season. Mustapha Heron, a Waterbury, Connecticut native, scored 15 points in the Auburn victory.
“It’s a matchup that we had last year. I think both teams have gotten better, so it’s going to be fun to play in that game,” Heron said.
Auburn will likely have sophomore forward Anferenee McLemore in action on Saturday. McLemore missed the final minutes of Auburn’s win over Murray State with a concussion.
“He’s looking better. Assuming he doesn’t experience any headaches or concussion symptoms once he’s moving he should be okay to go Saturday,” Pearl said.
Auburn will look to improve on its best start since the 1999-2000 season. The Tigers currently sit at 10-1 overall and rank No. 32 in the RPI.
“I want our fans to get there early (Saturday),” Pearl said. “Get there early and create a really, really, really special environment, and let’s see if together we can get No. 11.”