Tigers Punched Out By Pirates In Jersey

Auburn coach Tony Barbee said his basketball team was physically whipped in suffering its first loss of the season.

Newark, N.J.--Dominated on the boards and in three-point shooting, Auburn suffered its first loss of the season, dropping an 81-59 decision on Friday night at Seton Hall in the SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Pirates won with a commanding 40-26 rebounding edge while scoring 21 more points on three-point shots than Auburn. Seton Hall hit 10-24 three-pointers while the Tigers made just 3-16.

"We came out on the floor tonight and Seton Hall punched us right in the mouth and we didn't respond," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "The just out-toughed us--out-physicaled us in the paint. It is disappointing because you want your veteran team to respond better than we did tonight."

Tigers fell to 4-1 while Seton Hall improved its record to 6-1 in the first ever meeting between the two basketball teams.

"We probably need a little bit of this to wake our guys up," Barbee said. "We haven't been competing because that is what this game is all about. It doesn't matter how well you shoot it, how good you finish. It is about one thing--toughness, meanness, nastiness."

Auburn started slowly falling behind 16-7 before Barbee called a timeout at the 14:31 mark. The Pirates continued to pressure the Tigers with a physical defense and stretched the lead to 22-11.

Auburn cut the gap to 24-19 on a fastbreak basket by Chris Denson, but the Pirates built the lead back to 11 points at 35-24 before Auburn narrowed the halftime margin to 38-31. "I thought we did some good things early," Barbee said. "We gave ourselves a chance coming into halftime to make a run."

The Pirates got the lead back into double figures with a rebound basket by Fuquan Edwin with 14:56 to play, prompting Barbee to call another timeout.

From that point the home team steadily built the margin as Auburn was not able to make a run on the Pirates in the second half.

Rob Chubb led the Tigers in scoring with 12 points and rebounds with six. Off the bench Josh Wallace added 11 points, four assists and four steals. Kenny Gabriel also scored 11 for the Tigers

Varez Ward, who only took four field goals, scored nine points and Frankie Sullivan, who was 3-15 from the field, added seven points. Another guard, Chris Denson, came off the bench to score eight.

Chris Denson drives into traffic for the Tigers.

Starting forward Allen Payne didn't score or pull in a rebound for the Tigers.

Seton Hall was led by its star forward Herb Pope, who topped his 20.5 points per game average with 23 while adding a game-high 12 rebounds, right at his season average.

Patrick Auda, who was averaging 7.0 points per game, sparked the Pirates with 17 points while Aaron Cosby added 13 points. Point guard Jordan Theodore caused the problems for the Tigers with 10 assists to just three turnovers.

"We have got to go back and work on some things, but the bottom line is we have got to get more of a physical presence in the paint--not offensively--defensively and rebounding," Barbee said.

"We got dominated on the backboards tonight. We got our tails kicked. It was 8-0 on the offensive boards at the half, 12 second chance points to none.

"All we talk about and work on is finding ways to create easy opportunities," the coach added. "One them is offensive rebounding and getting second chance points. When we shot the ball in the first half we had nobody in the paint. When I looked at them they had five guys on that offensive glass. We have got to play tougher, we have got to play meaner and we have got to play nastier because if we don't we are going to be inconsistent."

At the Break: Eight first half steals by the Pirates and six made three-pointers were key stats that gave Seton Hall a 38-31 lead at halftime. Auburn hit 14-23 field goals while Seton Hall hit 15-34 field goals while out-rebounding the Tigers 17-12.

Auburn turned the ball over nine times to just four for the home team in the opening half. Auburn was 1-2 at the foul line in the first half while Seton Hall made 2-5. Auburn made 2-7 treys in the opening half.

More From Barbee: "We have been playing down to our competition," the coach said. "We haven't been preparing for this level of competition. We haven't been preparing to come play at a Big East team like this in practice. I told them it was going to bite them so now maybe this experience, only one game in a long season, will get their attention. I tried to warn them. We have been working on some things in practice, but we got exposed a little bit tonight. Now, hopefully, we will take this as a learning opportunity."

Full Team: "We look forward to some guys coming back from injury," said Barbee, whose Tigers are missing two of their three signees, shooting guard Cedrick McAfee (foot stress fracture) and forward Bernard Morena (ankle injury). Foward Josh Langford, a part-time starter, has practiced, but has not played due to a suspension.

For game six the Tigers will get Noel Johnson, a transfer from Clemson, into the lineup for the first time. "We look forward to having Noel when he gets eligible after the first semester," said Barbee, who added the absence of those players was no excuse for how the Tigers performed vs. Seton Hall.

Up Next: The Tigers have a long break before returning to action vs. another Big East team when they play South Florida on Dec. 14th at the Auburn Arena. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m.

Final Exams: Barbee said the long layoff between games will give the Tigers plenty of practice time to make corrections, but added the most important thing for his players is to take care of business academically with final exams starting next week.

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