Commodores Keelhaul Cold-Shooting Tigers

Auburn coach Tony Barbee called his team soft after the Tigers lost 65-35 in their SEC opener at Vanderbilt.

Nashville, Tenn.--Vanderbilt took control early and cruised to a 65-35 victory on Saturday at Memorial Gym in the SEC basketball opener for both teams.

The Tigers shot just 27.3 percent (15-55) from the field and were even worse at the foul line making just 2-10 attempts.

The 35 points was the lowest total for an Auburn team since losing 79-35 on January 5th, 1951 at Kentucky during the first season Joel Eaves was head coach of the Tigers. The last time the Tigers finished a game with less than 40 points was Feb. 7th, 1961 in a 38-36 victory at Georgia Tech.

The Commodores played solid basketball from start to finish although they were hotter shooting the ball in the first half than the second. Vanderbilt hit 22-49 field goals (44.8 percent) and made 13-29 three pointers. Auburn was 3-13 on threes.

Vandy didn't have a good day at the foul line, making just 8-16, but that was not a problem on a day the visitors struggled in most areas, including rebounding, with Vandy enjoying a 42-34 advantage.

The turnovers were close to even with Auburn having 13, two more than the Commodores.

Auburn outscored Vandy 22-10 in points in the paint and 16-13 in bench points.

Auburn fell to 10-5 with the loss while Vandy, which opened the season ranked in the Top 10 nationally, improved to 11-4.

"The bottom line is I am doing an awful job with this team," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee, whose team had a season-low for points scored, eight below its total vs. Long Beach State. "It is on me.

"We were not very talented last year, there was no secret about it," Barbee said. "We did not have SEC level talent and what has really changed from last year? Not much. Our talent level has not changed much. We don't have that much talent, but what I got last year's team to do was to understand that fact, look into the mirror and realize what we were as a whole collectively, and individually, and got them to play above what they were."

Barbee added that he has not been able to make that happen with his second Auburn team. The coach also noted that the Tigers need to become tougher both mentally and physically.

"We are as soft as any team I have ever been around," he said. "This team is as soft collectively as they are individually and you are going to get beat by 30 when you play Top 20 talent level teams in the country--teams with three or four NBA draft picks on their team.

"If you play meaner, nastier and tougher than the most talented team in the country, you are going to have a chance in that game and that is what we did last year," Barbee said.

The Tigers did not have a player score in double figures. Sophomore guard Chris Denson was the high point man with seven points. Sophomore guard Varez Ward added six and sophomore forward Josh Langford scored five.

The team's leading scorer and rebounder, senior Kenny Gabriel, had a rough day in Nashville finishing with two points and three rebounds. He hit just 1-7 field goals. "We had a lot of open looks, we just missed them all," Gabriel said. "We have to get back to practice and keep working on defense. We have to make shots when we get a chance to."

Rob Chubb led Auburn on the boards with six rebounds and he scored four points. Auburn's second-leading scorer, Frankie Sullivan, continued his recent slump as he scored only two points.

Steve Tchiengang (33) drives against Rob Chubb.

"I don't know what offense to run to get us better shots than we got," Barbee said. "We got Rob Chubb the ball 10 times within one foot of the basket and he goes 1-10. How do you win? We got Frankie, who is supposed to be one of the best shooters around, great looks and he goes 1-4. We got Kenny Gabriel great looks on the floor and he goes 1-7."

John Jenkins, the SEC's leading scorer, finished with 17 points for the Commodores. Jeffery Taylor added 16 points and Brad Tinsley added a dozen.

Auburn's only lead was 3-1 to open the game, a strange start that featured six fouls on the visitors in less than three minutes, including two on Gabriel.

Auburn's bigger problem in the first half than the fouls was the three-point shooting of the Commodores, who made nine of them in the first 20 minutes on 16 attempts. That allowed the Commodores to take a 38-19 lead into intermission.

At the break the Tigers were shooting just 28.6 percent while Vandy was an even 50 percent from the field. Neither team shot free throws well in the opening half as Auburn made 1-6 and Vandy hit 5-12.

Auburn wasn't able to make a run in the second half as the Commodores steadily increased the lead, building the margin to 30 points with 4:17 left on a three-pointer by Taylor.

The Tigers return to action on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. home game vs. the Kentucky Wildcats.

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