Tigers Looking For First SEC Victory

Ole Miss will visit the Auburn Arena on Saturday for an SEC basketball game.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tony Barbee said rebounding will be a key for his Auburn Tigers if they hope to pick up their initial SEC victory of the season when Ole Miss comes to the Auburn Arena on Saturday.

Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m. as an Auburn team, which has a 10-6 overall record and 0-2 league mark, faces the Rebels, who are 11-5 overall and 1-1 in the SEC after defeating Arkansas on Wednesday night.

In the victory over the Razorbacks, Ole Miss enjoyed a huge 48-26 rebounding advantage.

"They are very tall, they are very big," Barbee said of the Ole Miss front line that features 6-9 Terrance Henry, 6-9 Reginald Bucker and 6-7 Murphy Holloway.

Holloway, a 240-pound junior, is close to averaging a double-double with 10.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Back in the lineup after being out with an ankle injury, he scored 19 points and pulled in 14 rebounds in his team's 71-63 victory over Arkansas.

Bucker is averaging 5.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. Barbee said that the junior is one of the best shotblockers in the SEC.

Henry, a senior, is averaging 11.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

"Their front line is one of the strongest in our conference," Barbee said.

Tony Barbee reacts to a play in the Kentucky game on Wednesday night.

A player who burned Auburn last season saw his Ole Miss career go up in smoke last week after being arrested for marijuana possession. Dundrecous Nelson, a sophomore guard who set a school freshman scoring record with 30 points vs. Auburn, has been dismissed from the Ole Miss team.

Auburn had its 10-game homecourt winning streak ended on Wednesday night as Kentucky pulled away in the closing minutes to take a 68-53 victory.

"We came down the stretch and with around five minutes left it was a two-point game," notes Auburn sophomore guard Varez Ward. However, the Tigers struggled to score at the end of the game and the No. 2 ranked Wildcats avoided their second loss of the season.

Ward said that he takes "full blame" for the late offensive drought, noting that as one of the team's playmakers that Babee is counting on him along with Frankie Sullivan and Kenny Gabriel to step up and make plays at crunch time.

"We didn't make enough shots at the end going down the stretch," Ward said. "If we made those shots it could have probably changed the outcome of the game."

Gabriel agreed with Ward and said, "Coach had a big session on empty possessions. That is one thing we have to work on. In close games like that, any empty possessions are going to hurt you and keep you from winning the game."

On the plus side for the Tigers they rebounded better and improved their performance when they didn't have the basketball. "I think the energy on the defensive end was much better than the past two games," Ward said.

Gabriel, a senior forward, said,"We finally grasped how hard we need to play in a games. Unfortunately, we came away a lost, but I think we understand how hard, how tough and mean we have to play to win games."

After giving a big effort to pull off the upset, Gabriel was asked if his team is prepared to play hard from start to finish vs. Ole Miss, a team the Tigers split games with last season.

"I feel like we are all going to come out prepared because, number one, Kentucky ended our home streak of being undefeated this year," Gabriel said. "We always want to protect this house."

Last season at Ole Miss the Rebels pounded Auburn 90-59 in Oxford and were doing it in the rematch on March 2nd at Auburn. However, the Tigers overcame a 20-point deficit to rally for a 76-73 victory, the largest comeback in Auburn history.

Saturday's game will be televised on the SEC Network while Rod Bramblett and Paul Ellen will handle the coverage on the Auburn Radio Network. Auburn leads the all-time series vs. Ole Miss 72-50.

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