AUBURN — Saturday's men's college basketball game between Auburn and Georgia has been shifted to earlier in the day because of weather.
Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl announced Friday that the game has been moved to 11 a.m. That's six hours earlier than originally planned.
It will be televised on ESPNews.
Severe weather is expected across the state of Alabama on Saturday. That storm system, which carries an "enhanced risk" for tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, is expected to reach the eastern third of the state during the early part of the afternoon.
"Due to the storms that are going to be coming in tomorrow, the university along with Georgia, the SEC and working with the partners at ESPN and a lot of the authorities, have decided this game will be moved to 11 o'clock tomorrow (Saturday)," Pearl said Friday morning. "This was decision was just reached, and I think it's the right decision."
Pearl said he was excited about the fact that ESPN wanted to make Saturday's game one of their primetime showcases because of the rivalry between Auburn (14-0, 2-0 SEC) and Georgia (10-4, 0-1), the big-name coach on the other side in Tom Crean, and the matchup of potential NBA lottery picks in Isaac Okoro and Anthony Edwards, but "the safety and security of our community, our university, the teams and everybody that needs to travel in to work the game, I think, by far takes precedent over this."
"First of all, getting Georgia in and then getting them out before the weather hits — they're saying right now that 3 o'clock would be the beginning of when the storms would be beginning to really intensify," Pearl said. "Auburn Arena is a storm shelter for the community, and everybody felt it was important that, in case there was a tornado warning or a watch and people felt more comfortable being in Auburn Arena tomorrow afternoon, that it would be available."
Even at an earlier time, the game should be an interesting matchup for the reasons Pearl laid out above and more. The Bulldogs are coming off a spirited home loss to Kentucky on Tuesday in which they led for most of the second half before running out of steam late.
And while Edwards, a 6-foot-5 freshman out of Atlanta, receives top billing (he's averaging 18.7 points a game and has scored more than 20 points seven times in 14 games), he's not the only threat on the roster. Veteran forward Rayshaun Hammonds is averaging 13.7 points and 8.7 rebounds.
The Bulldogs are not a great outside shooting team (they rank 275th nationally making only 30.6 percent of their 3-pointers) but they are efficient inside, ranking 12th nationally making 56 percent of their 2-point attempts.
"I know you're probably tired of hearing me say this, but I just think we continue to, next time, play the best opponent we've played so far," Pearl said of Georgia, which ranks 65th in KenPom.
"Really impressed with Georgia, keeping in mind that I've been watching them since we finished the Vanderbilt game, so it's only been a day and a half. Much, much improved from a year ago (when Auburn swept the season series with wins of 15 and three points). It's got Tom Crean's hand print all over it. They play fast, they play hard, they're very aggressive defensively, they turn you over a lot. They're a little like us."
Auburn is coming off a narrow 83-79 victory over Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Okoro scored a career-high 23 points, and Danjel Purifoy made the key defensive play late as the senior class became the winningest in program history (88 games), but it was a nail-biter — the Tigers led by 14 points with less than eight minutes to play only to see the Commodores tie things up in the final minute.
"Wednesday night was a late night. We were tired yesterday. As a result, I really took it easy on them," Pearl said Friday. "We'll go get at Georgia today."
Pearl said he had spoken to Crean, who told him the Georgia team will leave Athens about three hours earlier than originally planned. The Bulldogs would not have been able to hold a shootaround inside Auburn Arena regardless of tip time because of the gymnastics meet between Auburn and Alabama on Friday night.
"Get up early, get some breakfast, get your coffee and come on over to Auburn Arena, because it's going to be a pretty exciting game," Pearl said.