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No. 8 Auburn expects challenge from UAB

In its four games since falling to Duke at the Maui Invitational, Auburn has not been seriously challenged.

That might change on Saturday when the No. 8 Tigers travel to Birmingham, Ala., to face UAB.

At least that's the message Auburn coach Bruce Pearl wants to instill in his players.

"They have a lot to gain by beating us, but we've got a lot to gain by beating them too," Pearl told "They're a good RPI team, they play a really good schedule, they're always going to be competitive in Conference USA, and so it will help us get ready."

While technically a neutral-site game -- Legacy Arena is close to the UAB campus -- it's as close to a road game as the Tigers have had this season.

A year ago, the Tigers beat the Blazers 85-80 in Auburn. The teams are 10-10 in the past 20 games in the series.

Even though UAB (6-3) will be a significant underdog on Saturday, Auburn coaches have been scouting the Blazers for weeks. Assistant coach Wes Flanigan has seen all nine of UAB games.

"There's so many people involved in this program," Flanigan said. "From the managers to the grad assistants to the video coordinator. So, what we do, coach Pearl, he wants everybody to grow and develop."

Junior forward Danjel Purifoy will make his season debut for the Tigers on Saturday, allowing the coaches to use a 10-man rotation for the first time.

"Plugging him in on where we think we need him the most is a tough decision, because you're 8-1 and guys are playing well right now. But Danjel also brings a lot of things to the table," Tigers assistant coach Steven Pearl, the head coach's son, said, according to the Opelika-Auburn News.

"I think it'll take a couple of games to figure that out. As a staff, we have to figure that out, figure out what works best for us and our system and what's going to work best for the betterment of the team. Having 10 guys is huge strength in my opinion. Last year, we would have died to have this problem."

Purifoy was sidelined for the last 21 months, including the first nine games this season, due to his involvement in the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The Blazers are coming off a 94-76 loss at Memphis.

"I thought both teams were trying to get rhythm," UAB coach Robert Ehsan said, according to the Daily Memphian. "I thought both teams were trying to settle in a little bit. We shot the ball very poorly from three in the second half, which was frustrating because of how well we shot in the first half."

The Blazers will need a better second half on Saturday. Memphis held them to 33 percent shooting, including 1-for-10 from 3-point range, after the break.

Updated December 14, 2018

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