Pearl wonders what Brown can do for No. 12 Auburn

The availability of leading scorer Bryce Brown is among the chief concerns for Auburn coach Bruce Pearl with his 12th-ranked team set to host rival Alabama on Wednesday.

Pearl fielded questions about Brown’s foot when meeting with the media Monday. He finally turned to Brown and asked how he was doing.

“It’s better,” Brown shouted.

Brown did not take part in running drills during Monday’s practice. He took part in only shooting drills. Pearl said Brown was to test his foot during Tuesday’s practice.

“He needs to be able to get some shots,” Pearl said.

Brown suffered from a sore foot and shoulder when the Tigers (23-4, 11-3 SEC) lost 84-75 at South Carolina on Saturday.

He finished with 10 points in a team-high 35 minutes. He made 3 of 16 shots from the field, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range.

“It was not an injury; it was just painful,” Pearl said. “He couldn’t really push off, and more than anything else, he couldn’t get what he always gets, which is hundreds of shots. Bryce gets hundreds of shots every day, and he’s not been able to shoot much last week.”

Pearl is so concerned about keeping his team’s health intact — with only eight scholarship players — that he will forbid contact in practice going forward.

Starting center Anfernee McLemore had to undergo season-ending surgery for a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia, suffered at South Carolina on Saturday.

“I can’t see having contact practice the rest of the way,” Pearl said. “We’ve had one contact practice in the last two weeks and that was one day before Kentucky and it was a factor in our preparation for South Carolina. Typically, in getting ready for South Carolina we would hit Friday but Bryce could barely move and I just can’t run the risk of getting down (to seven), losing anybody else.”

Auburn will miss McLemore’s defense around the rim against Alabama (17-10, 8-6). He has 73 of his team’s 155 blocked shots this season.

The Crimson Tide are fighting for their NCAA Tournament life. They defeated Auburn in the first meeting at home. A victory on the road would likely assure them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Donta Hall is coming off a 16-point performance on 7-of-8 shooting from the field in an 81-71 loss at Kentucky on Saturday. Collin Sexton had 12 points after having to leave the game in the first half with a cut chin that required a bandage to stop bleeding.

Alabama was down only four points with the ball with less than three minutes left but the Crimson Tide had five turnovers thereafter.

“We had a chance to win in a tough environment,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “There are no moral victories but we need to be better in the last four minutes of the game.”

Alabama snapped Auburn’s 14-game winning streak with a 76-71 victory Jan. 17 behind freshman John Petty’s 27 points off eight 3-pointers. The win was achieved minus Sexton, who was out with an abdominal injury.