Auburn will be without leading scorer against Tennessee
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) The Auburn Tigers have a 250-pound power forward playing point guard, three scholarship players available in the backcourt and a hard time scoring without hitting their 3-point shots.
That's the predicament facing Tigers coach Bruce Pearl going into Tuesday night's game at his old team, Tennessee. Pearl said Monday that leading scorer Kareem Canty will miss his second straight game after being indefinitely suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.
That's just the latest body blow – and potentially the biggest – for a team that has dropped five straight games. Guards T.J. Dunans and Tahj Shamsid-Deen have been sidelined since December with injuries. Shamsid-Deen (shoulder) is out for the season, and Dunans hasn't played since hurting his left knee on Dec. 23 against Harvard.
Canty's suspension follows a 1-1/2-game suspension for forward-turned-point guard Cinmeon Bowers.
''When you have those situations and you're not winning, it makes it really difficult,'' Pearl said. ''What you do is you take the guys that you have and you do the very best that you can to figure out a way to compete.''
That means Bowers playing point guard, with some help actual guards freshman New Williams and walk-on Patrick Keim.
Auburn (9-13, 3-7 Southeastern Conference) made just 15 of 58 shots (25.5 percent) using that lineup in a 65-55 loss Saturday at Georgia. Auburn announced Canty's suspension before the game.
Pearl hasn't disclosed specifics that led to that punishment but said the reasons were ''more serious'' than the reasons for Bowers' suspension.
''His attitude and sometimes affecting his effort was inconsistent, which then led to behavior that was detrimental to the team,'' Pearl said.
Auburn players have missed a total of 84 games. That counts top recruit Danjel Purifoy, who wasn't cleared academically by the NCAA, and center Trayvon Reed, who also hasn't played this season and wasn't enrolled for fall semester for what Auburn has described as personal reasons but remains with the team.
It's no surprise that Pearl's rebuilding job at Auburn has been difficult but the other issues have certainly made it more challenging.
''I've not experienced anything quite like this but that's the status of our program right now,'' Pearl said before expressing a rosier outlook.
''Recruiting has gone well. We've got more help coming, and I'll do the best I can with this team knowing that we've got good players coming that should help us make the kind of progress that we want to make.''
Canty's absence leaves Auburn without a player who's not only averaging 18.3 points but has dished out 82 more assists than Bowers, who's second on the team with 29.
He's also one of the SEC's top 3-point shooters. Guards Bryce Brown and TJ Lang are strong outside shooters moreso than penetrators who create their own baskets.
''Having playmakers and breakdown guys are important in the game of basketball, guys that can make plays,'' Pearl said. ''And we don't have a lot of those out there right now for a variety of reasons.''
That leaves Bowers trying to run the offense. He's averaging 11 points and ranks third in the SEC with 9.2 rebounds per game. He said he started laughing when Pearl told him he was going to play some point guard after last week's LSU game.
Bowers' advice to Canty is to stay positive, ''keep going to class and just keep doing the right thing.'' He expressed reserved optimism that Canty, a Marshall transfer, would rejoin the team this season.
''He'll be back,'' Bowers said before adding: ''He should be back.''