When Alabama guard Collin Sexton looks across the court at Auburn Arena on Wednesday night, he’ll see an old friend. His coach, Avery Johnson, will see something more.
He’ll see a maestro.
They will both be looking at Auburn point guard Jared Harper, the small, speedy sophomore straw that stirs the drink for Auburn’s fast-paced offense. The Crimson Tide will play at AU (7:30 p.m., SEC Network), a second meeting for the Tide and Tigers but the first for Sexton, who missed Alabama’s 76-71 win in January with an abdominal injury.
Sexton and Harper played together at Pebblebrook (Ga.) High School.
“We talk about once a week or so,” Sexton said on Tuesday. “We still have good communication. When I go home, we still hang out or go out to eat together.
“I haven’t actually played against him since the eighth grade, as far as us being on different teams. I mean, there was practice, but I’m talking about being against him in a game.”
Harper averages 13.8 points per game for the Tigers, but is equally adept at distributing the ball to the AU scorers, Bryce Brown and Mustapha Heron. He has 157 assists this season, just two behind SEC leader Chris Chiozza of Florida.
“He’s the maestro of their offense,” Johnson said. “He gets the ball where it needs to go and he can shoot the three. We saw him play a good bit when we were recruiting Collin. We knew they were probably going to different schools and we were focused in on Collin, but he could really play.”
While Alabama played without Sexton in the last matchup, Auburn will have to adjust its lineup for the rematch. The Tigers lost sophomore center Anfernee McLemore on Saturday when he suffered a broken tibia and dislocated ankle in AU’s loss at South Carolina.
“We wish him a speedy recovery,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “But offensively, I don’t think they’ll change at all. They are a fast team that shoots a lot of 3-pointers, and even when they miss they get a lot of long rebounds because of their foot speed.
“We will get a heavy dose of Herron and Bryce Brown. The main difference is that McLemore would try to stretch you out by stepping out and shooting a 3-pointer sometimes. You won’t have that as much with Horace (Spencer, who will replace McLemore), but aside from that, I don’t expect them to reinvent themselves.”
Auburn leads the SEC in total 3-pointers (9.9 per game) and is the best free-throw shooting team in the conference at 78.1 percent on the season.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.