Mississippi State (13-3, 1-2) has won 14 of its last 15 home games against Auburn, including the last six.
"Usually (I am) able to come in and explain how we were able to win a game". The buzz has changed from Pearl's job security to a potential NCAA Tournament run. You do notice it on campus too, walking around campus.
One place Pearl hasn't felt a difference, though, is in Auburn's locker room. They're pretty much the same.
But to beat the Bulldogs, Pearl knows Auburn will have to play better than it did Tuesday against the Rebels, a game during which "we didn't play our best".
Asked if he still holds out hope that Wiley and Purifoy, who would be starting at center and small forward for No. 22 Auburn (15-1), will play this season, Pearl answered affirmatively. The NCAA said Wiley would be eligible at the start of the 2018-19 season based on its current information in the case.
Two staffers have also been placed on indefinite leave.
The Tigers expect to fill at least two buses taking students to the game. Following the Tigers' 85-70 victory over Ole Miss on Tuesday night, Pearl admitted to creating the marketing idea that for $50 fans, specifically encouraged to be Auburn students, could get a spot on the bus for the four-hour ride, a game ticket and a boxed lunch.
On Tuesday, the Tigers overcame a 10-point halftime deficit by outscoring MS 50-25 in the second half of a 75-60 win that left Pearl perplexed.
The Tigers are off to their best start since opening the 1999-2000 season 16-1.
Auburn has only one senior and the team's 12 underclassmen matches Kentucky for most in the nation.
Purifoy, a 6-foot-7 sophomore from Centreville, Alabama, was the Tigers' second-leading scorer with 11.5 points per game last season.
Desean Murray, a transfer from Presbyterian College is also scoring in double digits (11.2 ppg) while Anfernee McLemore is the SEC's top shot blocker. It is believed that Purifoy and Wiley are the unidentified players described as "Player 1" and "Player 2" in a federal indictment against former Auburn assistant Chuck Person, who was among eight people indicted by a federal grand jury in NY on November 7 as part of the FBI's probe into college basketball corruption.
"It's not going to win or lose us the game, but it will really improve the environment", Pearl said. We're undersized. If we don't shoot it, we won't win it. So let's recognize it, be grateful for it and realize that's not going to happen very often.
"To go down to Mississippi State, we're going to have to play great to have a chance to win", he continued.
"I still think that we can get a lot better than we are", he said. We're capable of it. "I want to put that pressure on them, because that's the reality of it".
"I'm still here cause I love my brothers", Purifoy tweeted, "and even tho [sic] I'm not playing I'm gone [sic] support them".