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5:30 PM PT6:30 PM MT7:30 PM CT8:30 PM ET1:30 PM GMT9:30 PM 北京时间6:30 PM MST8:30 PM EST, Dec 8, 2018
Auburn Arena, Auburn, Alabama  Attendance: 8,365

No. 8 Auburn leery of matchup with Dayton

A 50-point win against Saint Peter's followed by a 26-point win against UNC Asheville -- No. 8 Auburn has had a nice pre-Christmas vacation from being tested the past two weeks.

That's about to change starting Saturday when the Dayton Flyers pay a visit to Auburn Arena in a matchup against the Tigers (7-1).

Auburn's only loss was in Hawaii against then-top ranked Duke. They're winning games by an average of 27 points.

The Flyers are only 5-3, but don't be misled. Those three losses have come to -- ranked Virginia and Mississippi State, and Oklahoma.

"We've got a great opponent coming in in Dayton. They've made the tournament four out of the past five years," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said Wednesday. They're not going to be at-all intimidated by us. They play hard, they play physically."

This just isn't false respect often hear from opposing coaches. Listen to Ben Howland after Mississippi State beat the Flyers on Nov. 30.

"I was really questioning what I was thinking by scheduling Dayton," he told reporters after the game. "I told (Dayton coach Anthony Grant) when I shook his hand that we're not playing them anymore."

Grant has had his share of battles with Auburn. For six years he was the head coach at Alabama and took the Crimson Tide to the NCAA Tournament in 2012. He was 3-3 against the Tigers during his tenure at Alabama.

"They've got a good environment, good home court with their student body, and they've got good players," Grant told the Dayton Daily News. "They're a well-coached team."

Two teams couldn't approach the game more different. Auburn wants to get-up and go; Dayton is methodical, will work the shot clock and try to score inside the paint.

The Flyers are ranked 11th nationally in field-goal percentage at 58.5 percent. They don't shoot the 3 very often and are disciplined on offense.

Their leading scorer, Josh Cunningham (14.8 points per game) has made 1 3-pointer all season. From inside the arc though, he is shooting 59 percent.

The real only threats from beyond the arc are Jalen Crutcher, second in the team in scoring at 13.5 who can knock down a long-range shot when called upon (20-for-47) as can Ryan Mikesell (11 of 26).

Dayton averages 72.9 points per game. Pearl's squad is No. 19 in the nation at 86.4. The Tigers are Top 10 in blocked shots (6.3 per game) and Top 5 in causing turnovers (20.38 per game).

It's the defensive side of the ball where the Tigers have made strides.

"It is encouraging," Pearl told AL.com. "The thing about the defense is, it's one of the most unselfish things that you can do as far as putting yourself in a position to be able to make plays."

Entering play on Saturday, the Tigers are allowing only 60 points per game, 15th-best in the nation.

Guard Bryce Brown is the spark on defense. He might be recognized more for his scoring, he leads the Tigers at 16.0 per game, but Pearl credits him for accepting the challenge of disrupting the other team's offense.

"Bryce Brown is the best on-ball defender in the country," Pearl said. "And so, if you can pressure the quarterback, you can really bother somebody's passing game. And Bryce is able to do that."

Pearl expects the Flyers to provide the stiffest challenge the Tigers have faced at home this season. Dayton is going to provide us some real challenges.

"They do a good job of getting that ball inside, they do a good job of getting that ball to the rim. They're a terrific rebounding team. They're physical. They're tough. And they're tested."

The Flyers are down to eight scholarship players after losing defensive standout Jhery Matos for the season to torn ligaments in his foot.

"Our team will need him. We can't have him on the court, but we can use his energy and his voice," Grant said. "Our guys are certainly disappointed for him. He's disappointed he won't be able to be out there with his brothers competing. But he'll be there every day."

Updated December 8, 2018

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