NCAAB: Auburn looks to continue climb vs. Virginia Tech

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A fixture in the rankings for five of the last six seasons, Auburn is anxious to return to its familiar perch under Bruce Pearl.

With a win over visiting Virginia Tech in the ACC/SEC Challenge on Wednesday night, Auburn can take a major step toward that goal.

After opening the season with an 88-82 loss to Baylor, which has since ascended to No. 9 in the AP poll, Auburn (4-1) has built a solid resume with four straight wins, all by at least 15 points.

When the Tigers take the floor against the Hokies, it will come after a seven-day layoff.

“I hope we’re not rusty,” Pearl said on Tuesday. “We can’t afford to be rusty because they’re (the Hokies) so sharp.”

Johni Broome leads Auburn in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounds per game (7.6). The 6-foot-10 junior will battle inside against 6-foot-10 Lynn Kidd, who is putting up similar numbers for Virginia Tech at 15.9 points and 8.0 boards per game.

In Auburn’s most recent game, an 84-54 romp over Alabama A&M on Nov. 21, Chaney Johnson came off the bench to score 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

It was a season high for Johnson, who was the Gulf South Conference Player of the Year last season at Division II Alabama Huntsville.

While Auburn was resting over Thanksgiving Day weekend, Virginia Tech (5-2) was playing three games in four days in the ESPN Events Invitational in Florida.

The Hokies reached the title game of the event, but two days after playing their best game this season — handing Iowa State its first loss, 71-62 — they played their worst.

Florida Atlantic, now ranked No. 13, thumped Virginia Tech 84-50 on Sunday, dominating the boards 40-29 and doubling the Hokies on the scoreboard in the second half, 52-26.

Virginia Tech shot 33.3 percent from the floor and only 11.8 percent from beyond the arc, both season lows, and allowed Florida Atlantic to shoot 56.9 percent overall and 40.9 percent from deep.

“Offensively we really struggled, which hurt us on the defensive end, which can never happen,” Virginia Tech assistant coach J.D. Byers said.

Virginia Tech’s Hunter Cattoor, who had 48 points in three games, made the all-tournament team.

–Field Level Media

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