Tigers Expecting Up-Tempo Game On Saturday

Coach Tony Barbee's basketball team will be looking to improve to 6-1 on Saturday night with a home game vs. North Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--After cleaning up their rebounding issues from their first matchup vs. a Big East team this season and then defeating another team from that league, Coach Tony Barbee's basketball Tigers will look to improve their record to 6-1 on Saturday night.

At 7 p.m. at the Auburn Arena the Tigers will have their first-ever matchup vs. the University of North Florida. The Ospreys are 5-5 and Barbee said Auburn's next opponent plays an up-tempo style.

"North Florida lost a tough game to Kansas State in overtime and has really been playing well," Barbee said. "They had won four in a row before that and are an exciting team to watch on film. They play 10 guys and a lot of teams don't go 10 every game.

"They actually platoon and will sub in five at a time," Barbee noted. "Their 10 guys all average about the same amount of minutes per game, and three of their guys average over 10 points a game. They have some shooters, some scorers and some rebounders and are a pretty exciting team to watch."

North Florida lost 79-68 in its last outing vs. a strong Kansas State team that Auburn could be facing later this month at a tournament in Hawaii. Auburn is coming off a 52-40 homecourt victory in which the Tigers held the South Florida Bulls to lowest point total vs. Auburn since December of 2008.

"I am proud of the way we defended, holding them to just 33 percent (shooting)," Barbee said of his team's performance vs. a South Florida team that tried to slow the tempo and make the game a physical, halfcourt battle.

Junior guard Frankie Sullivan battles for position vs. a South Florida defender.

"I am proud of the way we blocked them out because we really worked on it," Barbee said of his team's rebounding effort. "I am proud of the fact the guys responded. They made free throws, made plays and made shots when we needed them."

Rebounding was an issue for the Tigers in their loss to Seton Hall. Against the Bulls on Wednesday night the Tigers enjoyed a 34-26 edge on the boards. Auburn, which had been on and off with its free throw shooting early this season, hit 15-18 vs. the Bulls.

A pair of injured players could be making their Auburn debuts on Saturday. Freshman shooting guard Cedrick McAfee is getting close to being ready to play as he recovers from a stress fracture in his foot. The highly-regarded player from Memphis was impressive in preseason workouts before being injured.

Another guard, Noel Johnson, was eligible to play on Wednesday for the first time under transfer rules, but was not ready to play due to a wrist problem. He should give the Tigers more scoring punch and will be one of the team's best three-point shooters.

Barbee says that Johnson, a former Clemson player who was a big scorer in high school, will be a threat to earn a starting spot once team medical personnel give him the green light to play.

Another Tiger, 6-8 freshman forward Bernard Morena, is still a long way from being ready to play with an ankle injury that has been slow to heal. Barbee said that Morena is being considered for a redshirt season. "Before he was hurt Bernard was playing very well in practice," the coach says.

Auburn's inside presence has received a boost with the return from injury of 6-8, 232 senior power forward Adrian Forbes, who helped the Tigers against a big and physical South Florida front line, Barbee said.

North Florida, which is located in Jacksonville and plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference, features a leading scorer who opens games as a reserve. Parker Smith, a 6-3 junior guard who is a transfer from Tennessee State, is averaging 10.7 points per game.

Jerron Granberry, a 6-4 junior guard, is scoring 10.7 points per game for the Ospreys and Andy Diaz, a 6-7 forward and the tallest starter, is averaging 10.4 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game.

Forward Kenny Gabriel is the only senior in the starting lineup for the Tigers.

The Tigers feature five players averaging in double figures in scoring led by junior guard Frankie Sullivan at 12.7 points per outing. The others are Varez Ward (11.3), Chris Denson (10.8), Kenny Gabriel (10.7) and Rob Chubb (10.2). Gabriel, a senior forward who won praise from Barbee on Wednesday night for his play on defense and on the boards, leads the Tigers in rebounds with 7.3 per game.

Sullivan said that he has been impressed with the ability of both Johnson and McAfee to score and noted that both guards will help the Tigers when they are physically ready to do their thing.

With a victory on Saturday night the Tigers would have their best seven-game record since the 2003-2004 season under Coach Cliff Ellis when Auburn opened with a 7-0 mark.

With AU students being on break Auburn officials said that fans can buy seats in the student section for the North Florida game for $5 at the arena ticket booths on Saturday.

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