Defense, Rebounding Key for Tigers vs. UGA

A preview of Auburn's SEC Tournament matchup vs. the Georgia Bulldogs features comments from Kenny Gabriel.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn junior Ken Gabriel says a key to his Tigers upsetting Georgia in the opening round of the SEC Basketball Tournament on Thursday is to play smarter than the Tigers did in the regular season matchup won 81-72 in overtime in Athens, Ga.

"We watched the film of the mistakes we made in that game," says Gabriel, who was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday. "Most of the mistakes we made were really silly so we know what we have to do to go over there and get a win. We are getting prepared physically and mentally for the game."

Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers and Bulldogs will play the first game of the 2011 SEC Tournament. Tipoff time is shortly after noon CST at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Auburn comes into the game as the fifth seed from the SEC West after winning its last two contests, but the Tigers are just 4-12 in the conference and 11-19 overall.

Georgia is 9-7 in the conference and 20-10 overall. The Bulldogs need a win over the Tigers to improve their chances of earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Trey Thompkins, a 6-10, 245 junior, leads UGA in scoring at 15.8 points per game and rebounding with 7.6.

Another big body for the Tigers to deal with belongs to 6-8, 270 Jeremy Price, who is averaging 9.4 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Travis Leslie, a 6-4 junior guard, is averaging 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game for Georgia.

Gerald Robinson, a 6-1 junior guard, is averaging 12.4 points and 3.9 assists.

Kenny Gabriel shoots for the Tigers.

Commenting on what the Tigers need to do to win on Thursday, Gabriel says, "Number one, we have to limit Tompkins and Price in the post," Gabriel says. "We also have to limit their threes. We also need to out-rebound them and I know that is one thing Coach is going to key on during the game."

Gabriel says he likes the progress his team has made. "I think we are playing really good and we have a lot of confidence," he says. "I think I have been playing pretty good. I have been rebounding better and scoring pretty good. I have been getting to the foul line a little bit more."

Gabriel averaged 20 points and nine rebounds in wins over Ole Miss and LSU to earn SEC Player of the Week honors, the first time one of the Tigers received that honor this season. "I was proud of myself and I know everybody else is proud of me, too, so I just hope I can keep it up," he says.

Gabriel is shown at the team's shoot-around on Wednesday at the Georgia Dome.

Going into the tournament Gabriel is averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Last season he averaged 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in limited playing time.

"I think I have improved a lot," the junior says. "Number one, I have a lot more experience. Number two, I have been going out and trying to leave it all on the court."

The six-foot-eight forward says his team is getting better, too. "I think we have improved as a team because as a unit we have seen what we can do working together instead of one player at a time. You can tell by the way we have been playing in the second half we have confidence in each other and we know how to play with each other. We know that we can compete as long as we go out there on the court and be tough-minded."

A big part of being tough-minded is playing strong defense. "Coach has been drilling it in our head every day and we practice it every day--defense, defense, defense," Gabriel says. "He wants us to go out there and limit the other team to one shot and then he wants us to rebound and get fastbreak points because we need them."

If the Tigers defeat Georgia they will play at noon CST on Friday against Alabama, which received a first round bye after winning the SEC West.

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