Gabriel Leads AU to Victory Over Grambling

Auburn won its third straight men's basketball game with a home victory on New Year's Eve.

Auburn, Ala.--For a second consecutive game the basketball Tigers jumped to a big halftime lead and held on for a victory as Auburn took a 63-45 decision over Grambling State on New Year's Eve at the Auburn Arena.

Junior forward Kenny Gabriel led the Tigers with a double-double--17 points and 12 rebounds. Gabriel did all of his scoring in the first half as the Tigers took a 22-point lead into intermission.

"I was just coming out there trying to play ball because that is what my team needs me to do," Gabriel said. "I haven't really been able to get going like that in a long time."

Coach Tony Barbee said he liked what he saw from Gabriel. "I thought Kenny did some good things. I just told him great job in there with 17 and 12. That is what he should have been giving us all year and what he should be giving us the rest of the way, every game. He has got that type of ability. Now whether you go do it is something else."

While Barbee was happy with the victory, he was not happy that his team was outscored 30-26 in the second half by a weak opponent out of the SWAC.

"Like I told the team, I am not worried about the Georgia Southerns and the Gramblings of the world," Barbee said. "That is not who I am trying to beat. We have to beat them because they are on the schedule.

"I am worried about who we have coming up the rest of the way," he said. "There are not too many more Gramblings or Georgia Southerns left. As a matter of fact, I don't see any so we can't have an intensity level for 50 percent of the game. We can't do it.

"If we are going to take the next step for this team and program it is about putting together 40 minutes of unbelievable effort, passion and desire," Barbee said. "We have got to learn. We have got to grow. You can't do it with the type of teams we play on our schedule, especially in our conference."

Sophomore guard Earnest Ross added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, who improved their record to 6-7 while Grambling fell to 2-10.

Ross said it seemed like his team was content with its big halftime lead for a second straight game, but unlike the previous contest vs. Georgia Southern the Tigers didn't have to win in overtime. "Today we came out with a little more intensity (in the second half) than we did in the last game and that helped us pull it through," Ross said.

Barbee had praise for Ross. "E.J. is getting better," the coach said. "He is doing a lot of good things on the floor. He is not turning it over as much and he is rebounding the ball. He is being aggressive offensively."

The only other Tiger to score in double figures was Rob Chubb, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds. "One guy who has got to keep coming along is Chubb," Barbee said. "He is so much better than he is playing. He had a great first half and in the second half he had unbelievable opportunities, but he is one of those guys whose intensity slips."

Auburn led 37-15 at halftime thanks to aggressive defensive play that forced 15 turnovers and held Grambling to 23.3 percent shooting. The visitors hit just 7-30 field goals and were 1-8 on threes in the first 20 minutes.

Auburn, led by 17 points from Gabriel, hit 13-34 field goals for 38.2 percent. The Tigers made 3-9 treys and turned the ball over 10 times. Gabriel was 6-10 from the field in the first half and made 1-2 threes and 4-6 free throws while adding seven rebounds.

Unliked the previous game, the Tigers kept a comfortable lead the rest of the game despite shooting just 34.8 percent in the second half.

Grambling was led by 21 points from guard Raschard Boatner, who hit four threes. None of his teammates reached double figures in scoring.

For the game Auburn hit 36.2 percent of its shots to 32.7 for Grambling, which was 5-17 on threes while Auburn made 3-14.

Auburn hit 18-25 foul shots while Grambling managed to make just 6-15. Auburn out-rebounded the visitors 45-38. Grambling turned the ball over 23 times, five more than Auburn.

Adrian Forbes, who has been benched in recent games, returned to action and scored two points and pulled in four rebounds.

The Tigers return to action with a 7 p.m. home game on Monday vs. FSU.

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