Barbee Blasts His Tigers Despite Another Win

Auburn stayed unbeaten, but Coach Tony Barbee ripped his basketball team's lack of toughness after the victory.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn improved to 4-0 on Monday night with a 72-59 basketball victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but didn't impress Tony Barbee in the process.

In fact, the Auburn head coach could be described as perturbed with his team's performance. "We were sluggish the whole night," Barbee said.

"Until we start to enjoy playing hard, and playing toughness and playing nasty, we are going to look sluggish," the coach added. "We don't enjoy playing that way right now. We think it is about trying to outscore people, and that is not going to do anything but get you beat."

Before heading to his postgame radio show, Barbee lectured his team on that subject after the Tigers were out-rebounded 34-33 by the SWAC team and turned the ball over 16 times, one more than the visitors.

Auburn's good shooting allowed the Tigers to win the game comfortably even though the visitors outscored AU 34-28 in the second half. Auburn shot 52 percent from the field and hit 9-15 three-pointers. However, Barbee was not impressed. "I am happy we won, but we have a long way to go to get better," he said.

The Tigers got 17 points off the bench from Chris Denson to lead the way, but Barbee said he wasn't pleased with the sophomore's defense.

Chris Denson nails a three for the Tigers.

Kenny Gabriel scored 16 points for the Tigers and added eight rebounds, but Barbee was unhappy that Gabriel and starting center Rob Chubb were both out-rebounded by the players they were guarding. "Our big guys got their tails kicked," the coach said. "If we are going to rely on Kenny to be our dominant rebounder, whew...we are in for a long year."

Chubb struggled throughout the game and finished with just four points and one rebound. He turned the ball over four times. The coach said the junior center played poorly and noted that Chubb has recently played poorly in practice, too, after an impressive start to the season.

"I haven't quite figured out why," Barbee said on why Chubb performed the way he did on Monday night. "This isn't the only thing he is focused on now and it is obvious," Barbee added. "He is practicing distracted and he is playing distracted."

"I am not enjoying coaching this group right now because they are not enjoying playing the way you have to play to win at a high level," he said. "It is not about offense. Offense is going to come and go. It is the meanness, the toughness and the nastiness that you have got to play with and it is everybody. It is not just one through five."

The only kind words the coach had for one of his players on Monday night were for freshman center Willy Kouassi, who contributed seven points, four rebounds, three blocks and one steal in 19 minutes off the bench.

Willy Kouassi shots a fadeway and scores.

"He is one guy I would say plays with that meanness, that toughness, that desire," Barbee stated. "He has no clue what he is doing out there. No clue, but what he does know is how to play hard, mean, nasty and tough. All of that other stuff, we are going to help him figure it out. We are going to teach him. It is going to take time.

"He is coming in here as a blank canvas not knowing anything about the game....but if everybody will play with his kind of passion and desire on the floor we have got a chance to go a long way," Barbee said.

"If we don't get that then, if we don't start to enjoy what I call the grind--we aren't enjoying the grind right now--we are coming to practice every day like we are going to the dentist chair...and it is showing in how we are playing."

Auburn got off to a slow start and trailed for parts of the first half, the first time that has happened this season. Barbee kept tinkering with his lineup until he found a better combination. Denson's play off the bench seemed to be the spark the Tigers needed and helped Auburn take control and build a 44-25 lead at the half.

Denson hit 3-5 shots in the first half, including all of his treys and both free throws for 11 points at intermission to go with a pair of assists. He helped spark a 20-2 Auburn run to close the half.

In the second half the Tigers cooled off to 44.8 percent shooting while the Golden Lions hit 46.4 percent of their shots in the final 20 minutes, including 5-11 threes.

"We're moving backwards right now and I?really don't know why," said Sullivan, who scored 14 points and added three rebounds, two assists and one steal. "We will evaluate ourselves tomorrow once we get into a team meeting. I think we are just not playing hard enough."

Barbee and Sullivan said that Auburn's defense left a lot to be desired after the Tigers struggled in their man and had to switch to zone. "He was really thrown by the way we played defense," Gabriel said of his head coach. The senior added, "We started making shots and right now, when we make shots, we play defense. When we don't, we are kind of lackadaisical on defense."

The visitors got 24 points from senior guard Savalace Townsend, who hit four of his team's nine treys. Kyle Jones, who wasn't on the roster before the game, came off the bench and made the other five threes for the Golden Lions, who fell to 1-4 with the loss.

Sizzling At the Break: The halftime stats were unusual for the Tigers, who were better from three-point range than the foul line. The Tigers hit 8-11 threes in the first 20 minutes, a 72.7 percentage, and made 10-17 free throws (58.8 percent). Sullivan and Denson each had three treys. Auburn's overall field goal percentage was 61.9 percent.

Mini Tickets: On Monday the ticket office announced "mini ticket packages" are now on sale. A Super Saturday Pack includes five Saturday games vs. Ole Miss (Jan. 14), South Carolina (Jan. 21), No. 21 Mississippi State (Feb. 18), Arkansas (Feb. 25) and LSU (March 3). The Orange Pack includes games vs. Alabama (Feb. 7), No. 21 Mississippi State (Feb. 18), Arkansas (Feb. 25) and LSU (March 3). The Blue Pack features No. 1 Kentucky (Jan. 11), Ole Miss (Jan. 14), South Carolina (Jan. 21) and Georgia (Feb. 1).

On Deck: The Tigers will play their first road game on Friday. Tipoff from Newark, N,J., is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT as the Tigers face the Seton Hall Pirates in the SEC/Big East Challenge. Seton Hall is 5-1 after defeating St. Peters on Saturday night and is off until its game vs. the Tigers, who will be making their first road trip of the season.

TV Too: In addition to it being Auburn's first road game, the contest at Seton Hall will be the first televised game of the season with coverage on ESPNU. Games vs. South Florida (Dec. 14th, CSS) at home, the three tournament games in Hawaii (Dec. 22, 23, 25 on ESPNU, ESPNU and ESPN2) and a home contest vs. Georgia Southern (Dec. 30th, CSS) are on the TV schedule. Every SEC game will be televised again this season.

Auburn Arena: The next hoops game at Auburn Arena is a 6 p.m. women's contest on Wednesday as Troy faces Coach Nell Fortner's Tigers, who have a 4-1 record.

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