AUBURN -- The Auburn Arena will officially open Friday with a basketball double-header as the women host Mercer and the men host UNC Asheville.
Construction was completed on the new $86 million, 9,121-seat Auburn Arena this summer.
“I am excited about it,” women’s coach Nell Fortner said. “I can’t wait to hear the crowd and see what kind of home court advantage it gives you in a tight game and to fell the excitement of the fans of being in a building like that, feeding off noise.”
It’s the season-opener for all four teams.
The Auburn women returns all five starters from last year’s team that finished 15-16 overall and 5-11 in the SEC. Senior Alli Smalley is back after leading the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game as a junior.
Mercer returns just two starters from last year’s team, which finished 14-16.
The women’s game will tip-off at 5 p.m. CT and then the arena will be cleared, with the exception of the student section, before the start of the men’s game at 8 p.m.
Friday will also mark the debut of new men’s head coach Tony Barbee, who inherits a team with no returning starters from last year’s squad that finished 15-17 and 6-10 in the SEC.
UNC Asheville returns an experienced team with four starters back from last year’s unit that finished 15-16. The Bulldogs are led by junior guard J.P. Primm, who averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists as a sophomore.
“They come back with a lot of experience and they are going to come in here ready to play, but so are we,” Barbee said. “I am looking forward to seeing a full arena and everybody going crazy. I know it’s going to be an exciting night.”
Tickets are sold out for the men’s game but tickets remain for the women’s, which are $7.00. Admission to the women’s game is free for students.