Tigers prepare for ‘improved’ Georgia team

AUBURN, Alabama–Bruce Pearl said on Monday that he has pushed his Auburn basketball players since they returned from their Christmas break, even though his team has played just once since a road victory at Washington on December 21st. Auburn will be back in action on Wednesday in Athens vs. the Georgia Bulldogs.

That will be the first game for the Tigers since winning 61-58 last Wednesday at Neville Arena vs. the Florida Gators to open SEC play and improve to 11-2 overall.

“Actually the guys only got one day off, which was kind of interesting, so we played Wednesday,” the coach said. “Thursday, they all get individual workouts and a really good lift. I was recruiting Thursday so they worked Thursday and then Friday and Saturday.

“We had two very hard practices,” Pearl pointed out. “We had two really physical, really hard–kind of glad we got through it without anybody getting hurt–practices. Some best-on-best activity.

“We worked on us on Friday, and then we worked on Georgia Saturday so we got one extra day of preparation on Georgia,” said the coach, who didn’t practice his team on Sunday, which was New Year’s Day.

“We took advantage of the time to actually work on ourselves so there wasn’t a lot of down time,” he added. “I thought we had two good practices because we have got a lot of things to get better – offensive execution, transition defense. Georgia is really good in transition, has got really good athletes.”

Georgia also has a week to prepare for Auburn, the first SEC opponent this season for Coach Mike White’s Bulldogs. His team improved to 8-0 in home games last Wednesday with a 78-72 victory over Rider. Overall, the Bulldogs go into their league opener with a 10-3 record.

“The more I watch Georgia, and, obviously, we have had time to watch Georgia, the more impressed I have been with them,” Pearl said. “Mike has come in and done a really good job. They have got an older, veteran team with a lot of transfers. They are playing pretty well right now.”

Pearl said the Bulldogs haven’t played as tough of a schedule as his team, but noted, “I think as a result they have built up some confidence.

“They are way better than they were a year ago,” the coach declared. “They are just way better than a year ago. If you guys recall, we went over there and Wendell Green kind of saved us at the end so it is going to be interesting to see what they are going to be able to do.”

White, the former head coach at Florida, is in his first season in charge of the Bulldogs. “Mike White has done a great job against me personally,” Pearl said. “I think matchups matter.

“I think he has done a good job with his teams so we will go back and look at how they guard us, and what they ran against us, and try to make some anticipation as to what they will do, whether they do some of the things they have done.

“Typically, coaches like Mike–I am not going to put him in my category as far as age is concerned, I won’t do that to him–but Mike has been around long enough that he is a veteran coach. Veterans typically do what veterans do.”

Tipoff for the contest is set for 5:30 pm CST at Stegeman Coliseum. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

“Rivalry games matter,” Pearl said. “When I was at Tennessee, Georgia was a pretty good rival because it was a border state. Obviously, here at Auburn, it is a big rivalry game for us.”

Auburn’s head coach added, “It is an opportunity for us to win on the road. Obviously, those are the great separators. You have to win at home, and you have got to get a couple on the road. This one won’t be easy.”

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