Sidelines with John Clay

Auburn basketball’s rough start continues for Bruce Pearl

Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl checks into the Jockey Club Suites at The Kentucky Derby, on Saturday, May 7th, 2016 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl checks into the Jockey Club Suites at The Kentucky Derby, on Saturday, May 7th, 2016 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY. Lexington Herald-Leader

Auburn basketball isn’t just experiencing a slow start out of the 2017-18 gate, the Tigers are falling flat on their face before even taking the first step.

Go back to the surprise arrest of Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person, one of four coaches charged in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York as part of an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.

Then Thursday, the school announced that sophomore forward Daniel Purifoy and sophomore center Austin Wiley were being held out of action because of “potential eligibility issues” in connection with the investigation.

So playing short-handed, Bruce Pearl’s team went out Thursday night and promptly lost 100-95 in overtime in an exhibition game against Barry, ranked No. 12 in Division II, at Auburn Arena.

Sawyer Glick scored 32 points and Elvar Fridriksson added 26 points and eight assists for Barry, a private university in Miami Shores Florida with an enrollment of 8,905.

Mustapha Heron scored 21 points and Jared Harper 20 for the Tigers, who lost an exhibition game for the first time since 2010.

The victorious Buccaneers made 16 of a ridiculous 41 three-point attempts. Glick was eight-of-16 from behind the stripe. Daniel Mortensen came off the bench to score 14 points and grab 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Auburn missed 17 of its 20 three-point attempts. The Tigers shot 44.8 percent for the game, but Barry shot an even 50 percent overall.

“We got a good team,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl afterward. “We lost to a good team. I think (fans have) reason to be optimistic because we’ve got a lot of weapons.”

Still, it’s certainly not the start Pearl could have wanted entering his fourth season at Auburn. The 57-year-old former Tennessee coach is 44-54 as coach of t he Tigers with a 16-38 SEC record. His team went 18-14 overall with a 7-11 conference mark last season.

This was supposed to be Pearl’s best Auburn team in large part because of Wiley, the 6-foot-11 center who played well for the USA U19 team coached by John Calipari this past summer.

Wiley and Purifoy will both be allowed to practice with the team, but their college careers remain uncertain.

In other SEC basketball exhibitions, No. 8 Florida rolled over host Jacksonville 88-47 on Thursday. Junior guard Jalen Hudson scored 21 points for the Gators. KeVaughn Allen and grad transfer Egor Koulechov each scored 17 for Mike White’s team.

Starting point guard Chris Chiozza did suffer a sprained shoulder for the Gators. He is to have the injury re-examined on Friday.

Centre College at Kentucky men’s basketball

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington

TV: SEC Network with Richard Cross and Daymeon Fishback

Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

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