Barbee Looking for a Peak Performance

Auburn coach Tony Barbee comments on his team as the Tigers prepare to open play in the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament.

Atlanta, Ga.--Tony Barbee said Auburn's near upset of Georgia during the regular season will not be a factor in the rematch to open the 2011 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday at the Georgia Dome.

The Tigers and the Bulldogs will tip off shortly after noon CST in the first game of the four-day tournament. On Feb. 5th in Athens the Bulldogs prevailed 81-72 over Auburn, but had to go to overtime to win.

"I don't think that game is going to have any impact on the game tomorrow," Barbee said on Wednesday at the Georgia Dome where his team had a shoot-around.

"That game almost seems like it was six months ago," the coach said. "It has been so long. We are a completely different team from that game.

"One, we didn't have our starting center, one of our interior players, Rob Chubb, in that game and I know they are a different team from that first game," Barbee noted. "It is going to be a difficult matchup.

"I mean you are talking about Georgia and the season they had--the great season they had," Barbee said. "Mark (Coach Mark Fox) does a great job with his team. They are probably the most talented team in our league. You are talking about three or four pros on that team. Guys that are couple first-round picks that we are going to be seeing playing in the NBA for a long time."

In addition to UGA's talent, Barbee notes that the 20-10 Bulldogs are trying to make sure they aren't on the outside looking in on Sunday when the NCAA Tournament field is announced. "They have got a lot at stake to play for, but on the flip side so do we," Barbee said.

Earnest Ross scored 30 points for the Tigers vs. Georgia in the regular season matchup.

"Even though there is probably no postseason in our future this year, these guys, my guys, are still excited about playing," the first-year Auburn coach said. "They are excited about competing. You see how we played down the stretch and how we have gotten better over the course of the conference season so I think it will be a good game, but it's going to be a hard game from our side of it because of the challenges that Georgia presents."

The winner of Thursday's game moves into the quarter-finals of the tournament to play Alabama at noon CST on Friday. The winner of the tournament receives the automatic bye into the NCAA Tournament field.

"It's always kind of the fun time of the year, postseason play," Barbee said of being in Atlanta for the tournament. "We talk about three phases of the season with the non-conference schedule, the conference portion being the second part and then you get into the third phase, which is postseason play. The best part about it is nothing matters with what you did before because everybody starts over.

"The one thing you want to do coming into the third phase or postseason play is you want to be playing your best basketball and there is no question this team has gotten progressively better over the course of the season," Barbee said.

"Right now we are playing at our peak so I like the feel of my team going into the tournament. They are excited to be here. They want to keep their season going and that's always a good feeling."

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