Tigers Hoping to Rattle Florida A&M

Coach Tony Barbee's basketball Tigers play at home on Monday night before heading to Hawaii.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee will be favored to pick up the 100th win of his collegiate coaching career on Monday night as his Auburn basketball team plays host to struggling Florida A&M.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Auburn Arena as the visiting Rattlers bring a 2-9 mark into the game. Auburn is 6-1, off to its best start record-wise since opening the season 7-0 under Coach Cliff Ellis in 2003-2004.

Barbee, who has a 99-73 record as head coach at UTEP and Auburn, said he is looking for his Tigers to take their performance to a higher level to prepare the team for a challenging tournament later this week in Hawaii. The Tigers begin play in Honolulu at 1 a.m. on Friday CST vs. the host team, the University of Hawaii.

"This is the last tuneup for us to try to get clicking on all cylinders," Barbee said. "We have accomplished some things defensively and we are making some strides in that area.

"We are also trying to increase the number of positive minutes," he said. "We have yet to put two full halves together, and that is our goal. In this time of the year, you are trying to get a little bit closer to that number. That is all we are really trying to look for is how long can we sustain the level of play for a period of time in the first half and the second half. We have been searching for that complete 40 minutes.

Tony Barbee

"We are probably not ready to get both halves in as of yet, but we are making strides toward playing more positive minutes than negative," the coach added. "Defensively, we need to continue to establish that. Offensively, we need to become a little bit smoother in what we do and fine-tune so to speak."

Barbee could get help for the offense with the debut of guard Noel Johnson, a transfer from Clemson. He sat out the first semester under transfer rules and has missed the last two games with a wrist injury. Monday night could mark his debut in an Auburn uniform.

Noel Johnson

The coach also noted that another guard, freshman Cedrick McAfee, is closer to playing as he rehabs injuries to both feet.

The Tigers are scheduled to start five players who are scoring in double figures per game led by junior guard Frankie Sullivan's 12.7 points per contest. Senior forward Kenny Gabriel leads the Tigers in rebounding with 8.1 per game, which ranks fourth among SEC players, to go with 11.3 points.

Others in double figures for scoring include Varez Ward (12.1), Chris Denson (11.3) and Rob Chubb (10.0).

Auburn leads the series 6-0 vs. Florida A&M with the last game in 2000.

Reggie Lewis, a 6-2 sophomore guard, leads the Rattlers in scoring with 11.5 points per game. Yannick Crowder, a 6-8, 215 senior forward is averaging 10.5 points and 6.7 rebounds.

"Florida A&M's record is certainly indicative of the schedule that they have played in Georgia Tech, Providence, South Florida and Rice," Barbee said. "They play a really tough schedule and most of those have been on the road. They have a competitive ball club. Yannick Crowder is a nice player as he is averaging 10 points and seven rebounds. They play a lot of guys."

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