Coach Tony Barbee decided to go with a three-guard lineup and the extra guard in the mix, Chris Denson, was the most impressive player on the court Tuesday night as he scored a game-high 21 points. Denson hit 8-14 field goals, was 3-5 on treys, grabbed seven rebounds and hit both of his free throws while adding three assists and a steal for the Tigers.
"We needed this game," Denson said. "We are tired of beating on each other."
The sophomore said he was pleased with his play, but added the Tigers "still have a long way to go" as a team.
Chris Denson takes a jumper vs. the Paine College Lions.
Barbee agreed with Denson that the Tigers needed to compete against somebody other than themselves. "This exhibition came at a great time for us because it got to the point in those preseason practices where everybody was getting tired of everybody," the coach said.
"You get that typical stuff this time of year, the fisticuffs in practice," Barbee said. "These guys are tired of seeing each other, they are tired of practicing against each other, they are tired of smelling each other's breath every day. It was just time to get them out there to compete against somebody else."
"I liked the way we started tonight," the coach added. "We came out with a lot of energy. We were playing tough. We were alert defensively on everything we wanted to do."
However, Barbee said he wasn't happy with the way the Tigers finished the game, something he said he has been "harping on" with his players in practices. "The old coaching adage is how you practice is how you play," he said.
Commenting on Denson's performance, Barbee said, "He has carried over from how he finished the season last year. He has gotten a lot better. One of the things we have talked about with Chris is his killer instinct on the floor. As a team and an individual, I want them to play with that kind of fire in their eyes."
Allen Payne gets physical in the lane for the Tigers, which he said has been an area of emphasis.
Paine College, an NAIA school from Augusta, Ga., shot 33.3 percent from the field compared to 47.0 percent for the Tigers. Auburn made 7-23 threes while Payne hit 6-26. Auburn was 17-25 at the foul line and the visiting Lions made 18-30.
A couple of statistics the head coach liked were Auburn's rebounding margin of 47-30 and 19 assists with just nine turnovers. The Lions had six assists and 13 turnovers.
Something the coach didn't want to see was a mild ankle sprain for starting point guard Varez Ward, who aggravated the same ankle he had hurt in practice.
In addition to not having Ward to finish the game, the Tigers were missing sophomore forward Josh Langford and senior guard Tony Neysmith due to a discipline issue. Asked how long they will be suspended, Barbee said, "No idea on how long. They have got some things they have to do for me and this team, and really prove they want to be a part of what we have got going on."
Four other Tigers scored in double figures with Rob Chubb finishing the night 14 points while Kenny Gabriel, Allen Payne and Josh Wallace added 12 points apiece. Gabriel and Chubb each pulled in eight rebounds to lead the Tigers.
Kenny Gabriel shoots for the Tigers.
Starting Lineup: Senior Kenny Gabriel at power forward, junior Frankie Sullivan at the two guard, junior Rob Chubb at center, sophomore Chris Denson started as a third guard and sophomore Varez Ward at point guard.
Missing Tigers: The Tigers were short one senior and one sophomore from the lineup of guys who played in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday with forward Josh Langford and guard Tony Neysmith not dressed for the game.
Barbee issued a statement on their status that read, "Auburn senior guard Tony Neysmith and sophomore guard Josh Langford have been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. The pair will not be allowed back on the team until they fulfill the obligations set for them." Langford averaged 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds last season. Neysmith averaged 2.4 points and 1.3 rebounds.
First Sub In: Freshman Cedrick McAfee only had to sit on the bench two minutes and 50 seconds before Barbee put the two-time Tennessee All-State guard in the game in place of Denson. McAfee had a strong offensive game in Saturday's intrasquad game, but was 1-8 shooting vs. Paine College and finished the game with just three points. On the plus side, the freshman pulled in five rebounds and did not have a turnover in 20 minutes of playing time.
How Tall (or small) is Josh Wallace?: The junior point guard, who is listed on Auburn's roster as being five-foot-ten, matched up with Paine's five-foot-six point guard Marshall McFadden. Wallace was taller, but just barely, maybe by a half inch or so.
Parking Problems: Forty minutes before tipoff the Auburn Arena parking lot and other nearby parking areas were full although there were plenty of open seats to watch basketball. Once again this season, Auburn officials have failed to solve the parking issue as evidenced by fans cruising campus trying to find a place to leave their cars so they could watch basketball.
On The Shelf: Guard Noel Johnson, who joined the Tigers in January, transferred from Clemson and he will be eligible to play in games starting with the Dec. 14th home game vs. South Florida. That means Johnson, who is currently recovering from an arm injury, will only miss five regular season games.
Quick Change: The visitors came out in a man-to-man defense before quickly switching to a two-three zone. Auburn jumped to a quick 8-0 lead before the players had time to break a sweat, but the Tigers were not as effective attacking the zone defense.
Payne Factor: With eight minutes left in the first half, Auburn sophomore Allen Payne had scored nine points while Paine College had scored just five.
Time On His Hands: One of the best players in Auburn history, Marquis Daniels, was at the Auburn Arena checking out the action. Like all NBA players he is waiting for the end of a labor disagreement between owners and players that has postponed the start of the season.
Up Next: The Tigers will play their second and final exhibition game on Saturday at the Auburn Arena vs. Victory University. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Playing For Keeps: The regular season opener is on Friday, Nov. 11th vs. the McNeese State Cowboys. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Auburn Arena.