MACON, Ga. – Following a 10-day break for final exams, the Mercer men’s basketball team is on the road again looking to stay perfect in the month of December as they visit Southeastern Conference opponent Auburn Wednesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (Eastern) at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
Mercer (4-5) and Auburn are meeting for the first time since Nov. 20, 2000, when the Bears took a season-opening 92-88 win in Auburn. Following a 77-62 setback at Tulane to open the 2007-08 campaign, the Tigers (5-2) enter Wednesday’s contest having won five of their last six games.
“Auburn will be a big challenge for us after such a long lay-off,” said Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker. “They are down in numbers because of injuries but sometimes that can be a good thing because everyone knows their roles and where they are going to play.”
Mercer closed out a successful two-game homestand by claiming its third straight win, a 76-62 victory over Sewanee on December 8, following earlier December victories past Charleston Southern and Furman.
Auburn is the second of two Southeastern Conference opponents on the Bears’ slate this season – having played host to Alabama in their home opener just more than a month ago.
Mercer point guard James Florence is expected to be back on the court after sitting out the Sewanee contest with an injury. The Marietta, Ga., native leads the Bears in scoring and ranks second in the A-Sun, averaging 17.4 points per game. Senior guard Shaddean Aaron, who was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Week, Dec. 10, adds 15.4 points a contest and ranks in the top 10 in the league in three other categories. During the Bears’ three-game win streak, Aaron has averaged a team-best 18.3 points a game and pulled down 5.3 rebounds, while shooting 52.8% (19-of-36) from the field, including 6-of-14 from beyond the arc. He also hit 11-of-14 free throws and averaged 3.0 steals over the three wins.
Forward Brian Pfohl leads the conference in shooting accuracy from the field and ranked 10th in the nation as of Dec. 9. The Atlanta native is shooting 65.8 percent from the field. On the other end of the court, Auburn’s Korvotney Barber was leading the nation, shooting 78.0 percent.
Calvin Henry has averaged nearly a double-double during the streak with 14.7 points and a team-best 9.3 rebounds - and 1.7 blocked shots while dishing out a team-high 3.7 assists and hit 18-of-21 free throws (85.7%).
Mercer and Auburn have faced one common opponent in the 2007-08 campaign - The Bears topped Charleston Southern, 93-92, at the CSU Fieldhouse, while Auburn defeated the Bucs, 89-59, at the North Charleston Coliseum. Auburn defeated A-Sun Conference member Kennesaw State, 74-62, in the Tigers’ home opener.
Barber leads the offensive attack for Jeff Lebo’s Tigers, averaging a team-high 14.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He has attempted more free throws than any other Tiger, however the native of Manchester, Ga., is shooting just 36.4% (12-of-33) from the line.
Junior guard Rasheem Barrett averages 13.6 points a contest, while senior Quan Prowell adds 12.5 points. Barrett was named the SEC Player of the Week on Nov. 26 after the Tigers' 89-59 victory at Charleston Southern. Prowell, who was suspended for the first five games of the season, has yet to start a game this season but hit 8-of-10 shots, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Tigers past Southern. Senior guard Frank Tolbert chips in an average of 10.6 points and nearly five boards per game. Sophomore DeWayne Reed averages 10.4 points - the Houston, Texas, native scored 19 points and made 5-of-11 3-pointers against West Virginia. Quantez Robertson is the lone starter not averaging double figures in scoring, but the Cincinnati, Ohio, native averages a team-best 5.0 assists per game.
“[Auburn] is a very athletic team with several quality players,” added Slonaker. “We are anxious to get playing again and are looking forward to getting back on the court against a quality SEC team.”
Following the Auburn contest, Mercer has a nine-day layoff over the Christmas holiday before participating in the Jim ‘N Nick’s Cougar Classic, hosted by College of Charleston, Dec. 29-30. The Bears face host CofC Saturday at 7:30 p.m., then square off against either James Madison or South Carolina State on Sunday afternoon. Mercer leads the all-time series versus College of Charleston, 9-7 and over South Carolina State, 2-0, and has never met James Madison on the hardwood.
Note: Air time on 105.5 FM-The Fan is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. (Eastern)