Tigers face first true road test at South Florida

When No. 21 Auburn plays its SEC road opener at South Carolina on Jan. 4, Bruce Pearl wants his team to already know what it’s like to compete on an opponent’s home court.

That’s why the Tigers (2-0) are traveling to Tampa, Florida, on Friday to play South Florida before competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis next week in the Bahamas.

“I think it’s important to play a couple non-conference games on the road against good opponents,” said Pearl, whose team will play at Saint Louis on Dec. 18. “It’s about getting your team prepared.

“We will have played in neutral sites, we will have played in St. Louis, and we will have played in Tampa.”

As a bonus, Auburn’s game against South Florida (2-1) will give the Tigers a sneak peek of the Yuengling Center, the venue that will host the 2022 SEC Tournament in March.

“We get a chance to go down and play on that floor against a Brian Gregory team that does a really nice job,” Pearl said. 

The computerized rankings that will help determine Auburn’s NCAA Tournament fortunes incentivize the Tigers to play away from Auburn Arena, Pearl says. 

“When you beat a good team on their home floor or in their town, that’s worth the same as beating a great team at home, because you get extra points for being on the road,” he said.

The Tigers and Bulls tip off Friday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+. Andy Burcham and Sonny Smith will have the call on the Auburn Sports Network call.

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