Auburn has lost two of three games following an 8-0 start, but coach Bruce Pearl remains optimistic.
The 23rd-ranked Tigers (9-2) will conclude their two-game West Coast road swing on Wednesday night against Washington (9-3) in Seattle after losing 74-71 at USC on Sunday.
Johni Broome led Auburn with 16 points and eight rebounds against the Trojans, while Tre Donaldson scored a career-high 12 points before fouling out in 16 minutes.
Auburn was knocked from the unbeaten ranks with an 82-73 loss to Memphis on Dec. 10. The Tigers responded with a 72-64 win over Georgia State before losing to USC.
Pearl remained bullish about his team after the Tigers outrebounded USC 32-19.
“Look, I’m pleased with this team right now, if we can continue to grow,” Pearl said. “We made a lot of progress since last week against Memphis.”
Pearl is monitoring the status of starting point guard Wendell Green Jr., who was limited to 12 minutes against USC after injuring his ankle late in the win over Georgia State.
The Tigers will face a tough matchup against a Washington team eager to record another signature victory before Pac-12 play resumes.
Keion Brooks Jr. averages a team-high 16.8 points for the Huskies, whose resume features an overtime win over Saint Mary’s and a 17-point loss to Gonzaga.
Washington is on a two-game winning streak, including Saturday’s 90-55 non-conference rout of Idaho State.
Guard Keyon Menifield led five Huskies in double-digit scoring against Idaho State, finishing with 13 points and seven assists.
“You play the preseason to get ready for your league,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “We’ve played well. We’ve had a lot of great lessons learned. Going to have a great opportunity against a great Auburn team.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been the head coach here where we’ve had a top-20 non-conference team come here and play. It’s a great opportunity.”
The Huskies have been encouraged by the play of Fresno State transfer Braxton Meah. The 7-foot-1 center has averaged 11.5 points and seven rebounds in his last two games.
Washington’s frontline will be tested by Auburn, which leads the nation in blocks per game (7.5). The Tigers’ interior line includes 6-foot-10 Broome (30 blocks) and 6-foot-11 Dylan Cardwell (27).
The Tigers were outrebounded in four of their previous five games before dominating USC on the boards.
“It’s a stepping stone,” Broome said. “We’ve been emphasizing that the whole year. We know we can do it. We’ve just got to be consistent with it.”
Auburn will need to focus on taking care of the basketball after committing a season-high 23 turnovers against USC, including 14 in the second half.
“The real shift in the second half was when USC was pressing us and we turned the ball over a couple times attacking pressure,” Pearl said. “Usually, that makes us better. I’m disappointed that we didn’t do a better job there.”
The teams will meet for just the second time. Auburn beat Washington 88-66 in the first meeting in 2018.
–Field Level Media