Barbee's Tigers Earn Much-Neeed Win

With career highs in points from Earnest Ross and Rob Chubb, Auburn outlasted Middle Tennessee State University on Sunday night in a basketball game at the Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn rallied from a 17-point first half deficit to earn the first win of the Tony Barbee Era as the Tigers edged Middle Tennessee State on Sunday evening at the Auburn Arena.

Sophomore guard Earnest Ross led the Tigers with 22 points and four rebounds while sophomore Rob Chubb added 13 points. Both players had their high scoring games playing basketball for the Tigers.

Commenting on his team's victory, Ross said, "It means a lot. It's the first win of many wins to come. We are going to celebrate, but we can't celebrate too much because we've got our next game on Saturday. We are just going to go ahead and get after it the next game, and continue to win because it feels good."

Earnest Ross shoots for the Tigers vs. MTSU.

Auburn, which had a chance to win each of its three previous games before losing in the closing minutes, hung on to improve to 1-3 for the season.

The Tigers won the game vs. MTSU thanks to a big rebounding edge, holding a 40-27 advantage on the boards.

For the game the Tigers hit 45.3 percent of their field goals while making 4-13 threes and 16-28 free throws. The Blue Raiders hit 42 percent of their field goals and kept the game close by making 9-20 threes and 15-22 free throws.

MTSU missed three treys in the closing seconds that could have tied the game. A made free throw with nine-tenths of a second cut the final margin to two. Then an intentional miss on the second free throw bounced harmlessly into the corner as time ran out.

Auburn took the lead for good on a three-pointer from the wing by Ross after the Blue Raiders had tied the game at 60-60 with 3:48 to play after Auburn had built the lead to 12 points midway through the second half.

The Tigers rebuilt their lead to 64-60 as Kenny Gabriel made one of two free throws with 1:56 to play. A layup by Chubb with 1:16 left put the Tigers back up by four at 66-62.

Auburn looked to be in good shape when Josh Wallace made two free throws with 39 seconds left to make the lead 68-62. However, a three by MTSU's James Washington, who led all scorers with 25 points, followed by a turnover on an in-bounds pass thrown by Gabriel set up the frantic finish with the Tigers holding on to win.

Barbee said there were several keys to his team getting its first victory. The first was the Tigers played with a better flow offensively, the second was the Tigers didn't beat themselves on turnovers like they did on Saturday vs. Campbell and last, but not least, the Tigers played more fundamentally sound on defense.

Auburn turned the ball over just 10 times on Sunday vs. MTSU with only three in the second half.

Commenting on the victory, Barbee said, "It feels good, but it is like I told the guys once I got back in the locker room and they are in there going crazy, ‘Guess what? Remember this feeling because winning feels a whole better than losing.'

Tony Barbee

"Again like I told the guys, this is going to be a long season. It's going to be a marathon not a sprint. It's going to be a season of learning, and when you have a young team and experienced team like I have, there are going to be some ups and there's going to be some downs. Every day as long as we keep taking positive steps forward individually and collectively as a group, then I'll be happy with whatever the outcome is.

"I thought over these three days we have taken some big steps forward," Barbee said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win all three games, even though we weren't able to get all three, we had a chance at the end.

"Like I said, winning at this level is hard because there are a lot of good players, there are a lot of good coaches and tonight I thought we grew up in a big way," Barbee said. "We still have a lot of growing, a lot of maturing to do, but I thought our attention to detail tonight on the defensive end of the floor is what made the difference.

"I thought we executed better offensively," Barbee added. "We rebounded well this whole event (Global Sports Showcase), but the number one key to this game was us rebounding the ball as a group, collectively.

"I told these guys that this team (MTSU) has been averaging in double figure offensive rebounds this whole year. We did a great job to hold them to six offensive rebounds and to dominate them on the backboard was a big step for this team and then we took care of the ball offensively. We didn't have the silly turnovers and I thought the guys executed and they made plays."

Gabriel led the Tigers on the boards with 11 rebounds and he added a pair of blocked shots.

At the half the Tigers trailed 34-31 thanks to a big comeback that included a 25-3 run and a strong performance on the boards. Auburn out-rebounded the Blue Raiders 25-10 in the first half.

The visitors led at halftime thanks to their shooting. They hit 46.2 percent of their shots, including 6-10 threes. Auburn hit 39.4 percent of its shots in the first half.

Auburn kept the pressure on the Blue Raiders early in the second half. A dunk by Adrian Forbes at the 17:20 mark put the Tigers up for the first time at 37-35. Auburn had trailed 32-15 at the 7:09 mark of the first half against the Blue Raiders, who dropped to 2-3 with the loss.

MTSU coach Kermit Davis said, "I've got to give Auburn a lot of credit. I thought Tony's team played with a lot of toughness. They were on a losing streak, and hadn't played very well. It was 30-14, they were more physical than us for an eight minute period and just killed us on the boards and scored in the paint."

The Tigers are off until Saturday night when they play host to the Jacksonville University Dolphins.

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