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GAMETHREAD: Basketball at #19 Auburn, 5pm, SEC Network

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LSU travels to the plains to take on SEC-leading Auburn

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

While most of the SEC teams are spending their weekend challenging their Big XII counterpart, the LSU Tigers (12-7, 3-4) will hit the road to take on Bruce Pearl’s 19th ranked Auburn Tigers (18-2, 6-1). Despite spending their entire season in the wake of an FBI investigation, Auburn managed to string together a 14 game winning streak, and now sit squarely atop the SEC standings. Their lone conference loss was of course to Alabama, who currently seem to have a knack for beating the good SEC teams and losing to the bad ones.

In addition to the loss to Alabama, Auburn’s mutual opponents at the moment are Arkansas and Georgia. Like LSU, the Plains Tigers blew out Arkansas (by only 11 instead of 21). But unlike LSU, Auburn managed to easily beat Georgia by 13. The Bulldogs beat LSU last Tuesday in the PMAC 61-60.

Auburn has logged the shortest possessions in the SEC on both sides of the ball this season, averaging only 16.5 seconds on offense, 16.0 on defense. LSU is more accustomed to a slower, set pace on offense, and could find themselves in some early foul trouble if the home team is able to force a quicker game. LSU was able to knock off Texas A&M this week despite losing the rebounding battle 50-30, mostly due to forcing the Aggies to commit 20 turnovers. Auburn ranks first in the SEC in forcing turnovers, and have given up the second least turnovers. LSU cannot allow that kind of rebounding deficit this afternoon if they want a chance at a W.

Auburn’s key players are a pair of wings in Mustapha Heron and DeSean Murray. Heron logged 14 points and 11 rebounds in Auburn’s win against Mizzou Wednesday, his second double-double of the season. Other than the loss to the Crimson Tide, Heron has scored over 10 points in every conference matchup. Murray is one of Auburn’s most reliable free throw shooters, leading the Tigers with an 84% mark from the charity stripe, and converted a season-high 12 free throws in their 85-70 win over Ole Miss

Projected Auburn Tigers Starting 5

#5 F - Mustapha Heron: 14.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 26.6 minutes

#13 SF - DeSean Murray: 11.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 22.9 minutes

#2 SG - Bryce Brown: 16.4 PPG, 2.1 APG, 31.4 minutes

#1 PG - Jared Harper: 12.9 PPG, 5.3 APG, 29.3 minutes

#24 C - Anfernee McLemore: 7.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 19.6 minutes

This afternoon’s contest will tip off at 5pm on the SEC Network. You can listen in on the radio at 98.1 FM, or follow along in the comments below or my live tweets @marq113. Be sure to also keep up with the rest of the SEC as they take on Big XII teams all day, a big showing by our conference today could mean big things down the road for the Tigers.