Men’s basketball hosts Auburn Tigers as part of Big East/SEC Challenge

Coming off their fourth come-from-behind of the season, the men’s basketball team faces Auburn University in the 2011 installment of the Big East/SEC Challenge on Friday at the Prudential Center.

The Pirates come into the game with a 5-1 record but have yet to show any consistency on the court. With the exception of the their win over Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the Charleston Classic, the Pirates have had to overcome large deficits to earn their victories.

“We are still finding ways to win even if we are not playing overly well,” head coach Kevin Willard said following the team’s 63-54 win over Saint Peter’s.

The Hall have struggled in all aspects of their offensive game. As a team, the Pirates are shooting 45.2 percent from the floor and just 29.5 percent from three.

Though senior guard Jordan Theodore has played well statistically over the first six games, his overall game is struggling. Theodore is shooting just 37.6 percent from the floor and has hit just four three pointers this season.

“[Theodore] is not where I want him to be yet. I think he can be much better then what he is right now,” Willard said.

Despite his struggles, Theodore feels there are good things to come for the Pirates.

“I think it is a work in progress,” Theodore said. “Me and [Herb Pope] are first year leaders and we’re being asked to do a lot for this team. I think the young guys are coming on strong and I couldn’t be happier with this team.”

The freshmen have also been asked to do a lot. Freshman guard Aaron Cosby is averaging over 30 minutes per game, while fellow freshman Haralds Karlis plays 24.5 minutes per game.

Despite playing so many minutes, the freshmen have yet to contribute a substantial amount of points. Willard suggests that the two seniors, Theodore and Pope, need to do a better job getting the freshman involved early.

“[The freshmen] are doing a great job but the younger guys are getting a little lost. Then, when they get the ball, they try to do something with it,” Willard said.

Pope has been one of the bright spots for the Hall this season. He is averaging a double-double with 20.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game and has recorded a double-double in all but one game this season.

The senior forward was the first Big East Player of the Week this season, and was also on the Big East Honor Roll this past week for his efforts against Yale and Saint Peter’s.

The Pirates will be Auburn’s first test of the season when they arrive in Newark on Friday. Despite being ranked No. 11 in the SEC preseason coach’s poll, the Tigers are 4-0 but have played all small conference teams to start the season. Auburn have won their games by an average of 17 points.

The Tigers return four starters from a team that went 11-20 last year. They have five players averaging double-digits in points, including senior forward Kenny Gabriel who scores 11.5 points per game.

This will be Auburn’s third appearance in the Big East/SEC Challenge. The Tigers lost to Rutgers last season and West Virginia in 2007. The Pirates have never played Auburn, and lost their only Big East/SEC Challenge game to Arkansas last season.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.

Tim LeCras can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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