Kenny Gabriel was the star of the show for the Tigers. The 6-8 forward pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds and added a game-high 15 points. He also helped the Auburn defensive effort with four of his team's seven blocked shots and he added two of Auburn's nine steals.
"I thought Kenny was huge," Barbee said. "I was disappointed in our overall rebounding effort. We don't have a dominant interior presence who can clog up the paint and just eat up all of the rebounds."
Kenny Gabriel dribbles the ball vs. West Alabama.
The coach said because of concerns about a shortage of big men the Tigers are going to need to get rebounds from a variety of players. Despite a substantial height edge on the visitors from the Gulf South Conference, Auburn only won the battle on the boards 47-45.
Barbee said that he thought Gabriel got tired at times and that is an area he needs to improve. "He has lost some weight and we got to get him back where is feeling strong," the coach said.
Sophomore center Rob Chubb scored 10 points and added eight rebounds before fouling out after 21 minutes of action while Josh Wallace just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine assists.
"I know the guys were finally excited to play against somebody other than themselves," Wallace said.
Josh Wallace drives to the basket on Wednesday night.
Auburn's most highly-regarded newcomer, six-foot-six freshman guard Josh Langford, sat on the bench with a bruised sternum, an injury he suffered in practice. Barbee said that Langford could have played if needed. The freshman is expected to practice this week and should be ready for action in Monday's exhibition game vs. Columbus State.
Barbee said the opening night performance was a mixed bag. Going into the game he noted that he wanted to see his teams compete defensively like their lives depended on it and play hard on the offensive end of the court, too.
"I thought we did that in spurts," he said, adding that the Tigers slacked off in their intensity when they got tired at times.
The new coach had high praise for walk-on point guard Josh Wallace, who is listed at 5-10 but is definitely shorter than that. "Josh played well," said Barbee, who pointed out that he wished everybody on the team would play with Wallace's "fearless" intensity. "He plays like he is 6-9," Barbee said.
West Alabama head coach Eddie McCarter said, "I thought our kids played as well as they could play this time of the year, but I thought Auburn's defensive pressure was the difference down the stretch.
"They played with the same intensity all night long," the coach added. "I thought our intensity went up and down, but they're a little more talented than we are. But, I was proud of our kids. We hit some timely shots, some tough shots, but all in all I thought we grew a lot from this game because their defensive pressure was tremendous."
Auburn held the visitors to 34.2 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers hit 43.9 percent.
Auburn made 2-13 threes and 19-29 free throws. West Alabama made 6-24 threes and 8-12 free throws. Each team turned the ball over 14 times.
Gabriel and Wallace said they both enjoyed their new arena and noted it was loud and will give them a homecourt advantage. A crowd estimated at 2,500 was very noticeable throughout the game, the players said.
The Tigers played 10 guys. One of those, freshman guard Chris Denson, was only on the court for two minutes.
Walk-on forward Jake Drum, who was limited to garbage time performances last season, played nine minutes and made his only shot and he added one rebound.
Marino Thompson and Trevell Coleman scored 14 points apiece to lead West Alabama.
Andre Malone put up 16 shots and made just four. He was 1-5 on threes. The sophomore logged substantially more playing time than anybody in the game with 38 minutes. Gabriel was next with 31 minutes.
Gabriel was efficient with his shooting, hitting 6-11 field goals although he was 0-4 on treys.
Tony Neysmith, who played sparingly last season, was on the court for 16 minutes as a backup point guard and two guard. He made 3-5 field goals and finished with seven points and rebounds. He did not have an assist and finished with one turnover.
Newcomer Adrian Forbes backed up Chubb in the post. He played 18 minutes and was 0-5 from the field and 3-8 at the foul line with three rebounds.
Freshman Allen Payne, who started, played 21 minutes and hit 3-5 field goals, including the first trey for the Tigers in their new arena. He finished the night with seven points, two rebounds, two steals and one turnover.