Memphis’ wait for Auburn matchup is over

NCAA Men's Basketball

The schedule maker officially gave Memphis two days off to prepare for its Saturday nonconference game with Auburn at the Holiday Hoopsgiving event in Atlanta.

However, according to forward Lester Quinones, Memphis has been getting ready for Auburn for much longer than that.

“This is a game we’ve been working on for almost a month now,” he said Wednesday after his team’s 94-57 rout of winless Mississippi Valley State. “The past few games we’ve had are just leading into this game with Auburn. We’re excited and ready.”

This matchup of Tigers pairs teams still wondering who they are and what they might become.

Memphis (4-2) has won three in a row, although it lost to the two best teams on its schedule, Western Kentucky and VCU.

Auburn (2-2) was expected to lose to No. 1 Gonzaga, and did so decisively. But a road defeat to UCF was probably a bigger tell of just how much it lost off a team that reached the Final Four in 2019 and one that would have been a threat to return there last spring were it not for the pandemic.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl’s biggest concern is how his inexperienced team will handle Memphis’ pressure defense. Auburn is committing 18.8 turnovers per game while Memphis is forcing 18.5 turnovers a game.

“We’re still so new and so young that there’s still so much to learn and so much to be exposed,” Pearl said. “There’s no way you can duplicate Memphis’ ball pressure unless you play against it yourself, so we tried to play against ourselves a little bit this week. If we can’t handle their pressure, it could be a recipe for disaster for a young team.”

Auburn last played Dec. 4, when it canned 22 of 41 3-point attempts in a 90-81 home win against South Alabama. Six players hit multiple 3-pointers, led by Justin Powell’s seven. Powell pumped in 26 points and added nine assists.

Two Memphis players collected double-doubles in the blowout of Mississippi Valley State. Quinones had 14 points and 11 rebounds while Moussa Cisse had 14 points and 13 boards. D.J. Jeffries scored a game-high 21 points. Memphis nearly doubled the Delta Devils on the boards to the tune of 57-29.

This will be the first time Memphis and Auburn have played since Jan. 2, 1953, when Auburn took a 78-64 decision.

–Field Level Media

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