Bruce Pearl Hints at Little Brother Status for Tigers in Arkansas vs Auburn

Bruce Pearl, Auburn basketball, Arkansas vs Auburn
photo credit: Auburn Athletics

This season certainly hasn’t gone like anyone expected, but there’s no denying how much Eric Musselman has improved Arkansas basketball’s perception on the national stage and within the SEC.

With three straight Sweet 16 appearances, including two trips to the Elite Eight, no team in the conference has advanced further in the NCAA Tournament than the Razorbacks since Musselman took over.

If that streak is going to reach four years, things will have to turn around in SEC play — starting with Saturday afternoon’s Arkansas vs Auburn showdown inside Bud Walton Arena, which has a 1 p.m. tip and will be televised on ESPN. Live updates from which can be found below.

The Razorbacks went 9-4 in non-conference play and, with a No. 90 ranking in the NET, have a lot of work to do just to be invited to the dance. Beating No. 25 Auburn would be a nice resume boost, as it’d give them a Quadrant 1 win because the Tigers are No. 15 in the NET.

On the flip side, it’s also an important game for Auburn — not just for this season, but its overall standing in the SEC as a program. As good as the Tigers have been under head coach Bruce Pearl, they’ve had a hard time beating Musselman, going 2-4 against Arkansas since 2020.

Pearl even hinted at Auburn’s little brother status during Tiger Talk, his weekly radio show that airs on Thursday evening.

“Over the last 5-7 years, I think Auburn has been one of the better teams in the SEC,” Pearl said. “I believe that’s the case. Arkansas played Duke in the ACC(-SEC) Challenge. They got Duke at home. Arkansas did. Look, Arkansas has gone to the NCAA Tournament, they’ve gone to a couple of Elite Eights.

“Auburn didn’t get Duke. Auburn didn’t get North Carolina. Auburn didn’t get Virginia. Auburn didn’t get Miami. Arkansas did. Tennessee got North Carolina. Kentucky got Miami. Texas A&M got Virginia. So, unless we can go on the road and beat a team like Arkansas, we’re gonna get Virginia Tech and they’re gonna get Duke.”

Most fans may focus on the Hokies catching a stray, but that quote also shows Pearl understands his program is behind Arkansas in the SEC’s pecking order — which he said adds an “edge” to Saturday’s matchup.

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Auburn

14:41, 1H – Arkansas 11, Auburn 5

The early minutes were slowed down by a pair of reviews, but Arkansas is starting to find a flow. An incredible dunk by Trevon Brazile and heat-check 3 by Keyon Menifield brought the house down, prompting a timeout by Bruce Pearl.

11:31, 1H – Arkansas 12, Auburn 12

Since Pearl’s timeout, the Hogs have missed all three of their shots and turned it over twice. In fact, it’s only point since then was a 1 of 2 trip to the free throw line after a technical foul on Auburn’s Cad Baker-Mazara. That has allowed the Tigers to tie it up.

7:56, 1H – Auburn 20, Arkansas 18

Arkansas’ defense completely disappeared for a couple of possessions, allowing back-to-back easy layups for Auburn. The Tigers have also grabbed six offensive rebounds, but they’ve led to only four second-chance points.

3:52, 1H – Arkansas 27, Auburn 26

The pace has picked up the last few minutes. Menifield (8) and Brazile (7) are still the leading scorers for Arkansas, with Menifield also having 3 rebounds and 3 assists. One of those assists was another lob to Brazile. Baker-Mazara leads the way with 7 points for the Tigers.

HALF – Auburn 37, Arkansas 30

Arkansas had a one-point lead at the final media timeout, but got outscored 11-3 over the final four minutes. The Hogs are 2 of 7 at the free throw line, including 2 of 4 after technicals, and are getting out-scored 24-14 in the paint.

15:54, 2H – Auburn 42, Arkansas 32

It has been an ugly start to the second half for Arkansas, which is just 1 of 9 from the floor after halftime. That includes multiple point-blank misses.

10:07, 2H – Auburn 59, Arkansas 41

The Hogs pulled within 12 thanks to a couple of 3s by Menifield, sandwiched around one by Lawson, but then they stopped falling and the Tigers managed to push their lead back to 12.

6:35, 2H – Auburn 69, Arkansas 46

The Tigers are starting to run away with it. They’ve made 4 of 5 from beyond the arc this half and are 13 of 23 overall from the floor. That’s 56.5% compared to 27.8% (5 of 18) for Arkansas. Auburn has scored 42 points in the paint, while the Hogs have just 18.

3:43, 2H – Auburn 72, Arkansas 38

This one is all but over. Fans are streaming to the exits and players like Joseph Pinion and Denijay Harris have been playing for the Hogs. Baye Fall and El Ellis will check in when play resumes.

FINAL – Auburn 83, Arkansas 51



More Bud Walton Magic?

On paper, Auburn basketball has been the better team this year. It just cracked the AP Poll at No. 25 this week with an 11-2 record and has a 67.9% chance to beat Arkansas, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

What that doesn’t take into account, though, is the extent to which the Razorbacks have a massive home court advantage inside Bud Walton Arena. As both Purdue (albeit in an exhibition game) and Duke have discovered, it isn’t easy to come into Fayetteville and leave with a win.

That’s a lesson Bruce Pearl’s team learned a couple years ago when an unranked Arkansas team knocked off No. 1 Auburn in an instant classic.

“Probably not a tougher place to open (SEC play), just because of the fanbase and the intensity, the noise,” Pearl told reporters Thursday. “Last time we were there, we were No. 1 in the country and got court-stormed. Great venue, great history and tradition.”

Bud Walton Arena once again sold out of season tickets this season and Eric Musselman has said the environments for the aforementioned Purdue and Duke games made an impact on the court.

He’s hoping for something similar Saturday afternoon. In fact, it may have an even bigger impact because of the way Auburn plays. The Tigers rely heavily on ball movement, ranking 11th nationally in assists per game (19.0). The Tigers have also assisted on 65% of their total field goals this year, which ranks sixth in Division I, according to KenPom.

It’s also worth noting that Auburn’s star point guard, Aden Holloway, is a freshman — a talented, five-star freshman, but a freshman nonetheless. In non-conference play, he had 51 assists with only 13 turnovers, giving him a 3.92 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks eighth in all of college basketball and leads all freshmen.

“Obviously the crowd noise will be deafening,” Pearl said. “We rely on communication a great deal… They won’t hear each other nearly as well, so they’ve got to be able to read body languages and things along those lines.

“They won’t be able to hear me, so play calling will be challenging. They’re going to have to pay closer attention in an adverse situation.”

Starting Lineups

Auburn BasketballArkansas Basketball
#1 – Aden Holloway – G#1 – Keyon Menifield Jr. – G
#12 – Denver Jones – G#12 – Tramon Mark – G
#2 – Jaylin Williams – F#11 – Jalen Graham – F
#4 – Johni Broome – F#2 – Trevon Brazile – F
#5 – Chris Moore – F#8 – Chandler Lawson – F

How to Watch Arkansas vs Auburn

Date: Saturday, Jan. 6

Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark)

Tipoff Time/Tv: 1 p.m. CT (ESPN2)

ESPN BPI: Auburn has a 67.4% chance of winning, favored by 5.0 points.


Check out what else Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl said ahead of the Arkansas vs Auburn matchup:


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