Tigers Look For Win Two Vs. Kennesaw State

Tony Barbee liked the opener and is looking for more of the same from the Auburn basketball team on Monday night.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tony Barbee and his Auburn basketball Tigers are making a quick turn-around preparing for game two as Kennesaw State visits Auburn Arena on Monday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Auburn defeated McNeese State 84-62 on Friday night as junior center Rob Chubb led the Tigers with a career-high 21 points plus seven rebounds.

Kennesaw State has had even less time to prepare for the Tigers. The Owls traveled to No. 14 Wisconsin for their season opener on Saturday afternoon where they were crushed 85-31 by the Badgers.

Despite that result, Barbee said his Tigers are taking this opponent seriously, noting that Kennesaw State, which is based in Marietta, Ga., upset Georgia Tech last season.

"With their taste of not being afraid of playing a BCS type level school, they go next door beating Georgia Tech last year and come right down the street and play an Auburn," Barbee said. "It is something that they will look forward to. They will have a good following of fans because it is in the area. That is a concern and also anytime you play, you have to defend your backyard.

"Playing a neighbor, sometimes there is a little bit more emotion with them being in the Atlantic Sun. They are playing in a very good conference and a competitive league."

In their only previous game vs. Kennesaw State the Tigers were 74-62 winners on Nov. 13th, 2007.

Markeith Cummings, a 6-7, 230 junior forward, led the Atlantic Sun in scoring last season at 18.3 points per game. He scored 18 points on Saturday vs. the Badgers. No other Kennesaw State player scored in double figures in the opener.

In its opener Auburn hit 53.2 percent of its shots vs. McNeese, better than any home game last year, in a contest that was decided early following a 17-2 run by the Tigers to start the second half. That built Auburn's lead to 62-33 and the Tigers coasted to the victory after that.

Barbee said he liked his team's shot selection on opening night vs. McNeese State. "It is what happens when you are around for a year or more," he said. "You have got veteran players who have played for me. They understand. We really talk roles and define roles for these guys so they all know what is a good shot for them and what is a bad shot. I didn't see many bad shots out there.

"I really thought the guys played for each other," Barbee said. "When you have got what I think its a talented group, and they play unselfish and play for each other rather than themselves, good things are going to happen."

Chubb got almost no playing time as a true freshman in Coach Jeff Lebo's last season at Auburn. That changed last season when he became a regular in the starting lineup. This year he is expected to carry more of the load as scorer and rebounder.

Rob Chubb launches a hook shot vs. McNeese State.

"He was almost like a freshman last year," Barbee said. "For his first time really playing extended minutes like a freshman last year, he is going to be inconsistent. You are going to have your moments and at other times you are going to disappear. All of these veteran guys who played for me last year, I am going to expect them to be more consistent."

One of those veteran guys who played well in the opener was walk-on junior point guard Josh Wallace, who started 26 games last season. This year his role is as a backup to Varez Ward, who sat out last season after transferring from Texas. Barbee gave both point guards extensive playing time and even used them together at times vs. McNeese State.

Wallace scored six points in 18 minutes. Combined with Ward's total the Tigers got 20 points out of the point guard spot.

"Josh Wallace was good," Barbee said. "Those two are going to play great off each other as the one-two punch at that point guard spot."

The Tigers placed four players in double figures in the scoring column on opening night. Ward was the number two scorer with 14 points. Kenny Gabriel added 12 while Chris Denson contributed 10. Frankie Sullivan and Allen Payne scored eight points apiece.

Barbee said he was pleased to see a variety of players contribute to the scoring load.

That is the type of team I envision--a balanced team, five guys, maybe six, in double figures," the coach noted. "Those are the type of teams that are hard to guard. One night it will be Chubb's night, the next night, because of how the defense plays, it could be Chris Denson's night and so on and so forth.

"It was a great start, but we have got to finish better," Barbee said of the opening night victory. "We got the big lead, but the next step in the program is not becoming complacent and we did."

Chubb was excited about the opener noting he felt good about how the Tigers performed and his role in the victory. "Now I am 6-10, 245 (pounds) it is time for me to start dishing it out to people," he said. "That is what I came into the game thinking."

Chubb said the addition of Ward is a big plus to the lineup and noted that another transfer, Noel Johnson, will be a contributor when the guard is eligible after fall semester classes are finished in December.

"Noel Johnson, when he gets in there, he is going to be a big piece, a six-foot-seven shooting guard," Chubb said. "He is on the practice team. We have this thing called perfect stop where you have to go 35 seconds, a whole shot clock, without them scoring. If you get the rebound, you give it back to them and they keep going. Noel is the one you don't want in there because if he is even slightly open it is down."

Johnson, a transfer from Clemson, will be available for game six vs. South Florida on Dec. 14th.

There is no television coverage for Monday's game vs. Kennesaw State. The Auburn Radio Network will broadcast the game, which will also be available on Sirius Channel 201.

A victory would give the Tigers their first 2-0 start since the 2006-2007 season. After Monday's game the Tigers don't play another game for 11 days when Nicholls State comes to the Auburn Arena.

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