Tigers Looking For Road Victory In Knoxville

Coach Tony Barbee's Tigers are looking for their 13th victory as they take on the UT Vols on Saturday evening.

Auburn, Ala.--Still looking for their first SEC basketball road victory, Tony Barbee's Tigers will try to make that happen on Saturday in Knoxville where they will face the Tennessee Volunteers.

Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. CST at Thompson-Boling Arena where the 9-11 Volunteers, who are 1-4 in the SEC, will be waiting. Auburn is 12-8 overall, 2-4 in the SEC.

Auburn will try to bounce back from a 56-53 road loss at Arkansas on Wednesday night, a physical game in which forward Josh Langford and point guard Varez Ward suffered injuries.

After Thursday's practice Barbee indicated both players would be available for playing time vs. the Vols. The coach also said he liked the effort he has seen from his team in recent games.

"We feel great about our ball club," Barbee stated. "We are really competing hard. If we can continue the pace that we are on, we will find ourselves in the win column.

"We played terrific in the overtime game at LSU and had a terrific game at Arkansas," he said of his team's last two conference road losses."It is just something that we have to get over the hump.

"I really feel good about all of our guys," the coach added. "They are competing hard, are playing really terrific defense and we are starting to score the ball a little bit better. We feel like our team is really improving."

Junior point guard Josh Wallace said the Tigers are "picking up" their performance level on the road, but still need to improve. "It is tough to lose like that," Wallace said of the setbacks at LSU and Arkansas.

"We just have to start making plays at crunch time," he said, noting that defensive breakdowns have been the problem for the Tigers during those last-minute losses. "As long as we can fix those things and make plays on the offensive end, I think we will be good coming down the stretch."

Wallace, who has been playing ahead of Ward at point guard in recent games, says he is not sure how much Ward will be able to play on Saturday vs. the Volunteers. With Ward sidelined after being hurt immediately after entering the Arkansas game, little-used senior Tony Neysmith played eight minutes in relief of Wallace at the point and scored two points and dished out two assists.

"If he can go he can go, if not when we get out there we have to do what we can and make positive plays," Wallace said regarding Ward's status after hurting the leg that he had previously had surgery on when he was injured while playing for the Texas Longhorns.

Wallace said he expects a "tough home crowd" on Saturday in Knoxville, but added he is hopeful his Tigers can knock off Tennessee for the team's initial conference road victory. "As long as we do what we are supposed to do, I believe we can come out with a win," he said. "It is not going to be easy. We have to go up there with confidence and do what we can do."

Trae Golden, a 6-1, 209-pound guard, leads the Vols in scoring at 13.2 points per game. The top rebounder is freshman Jarnell Stokes, a 6-8, 250-pounder who just joined the team in January. He is averaging 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and is the SEC Freshman of the Week.

Jarnell Stokes has become an immediate impact player for the Vols.

The other double figures scorer for Coach Cuonzo Martin is Jeronne Maymon, a 6-7, 265 junior who is averaging 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds.

The Vols are averaging 69.8 points per game while hitting 45 percent of their field goals, 36.1 percent of their threes and 67.7 at the foul line. They are allowing opponents to hit 42.6 percent of their shots and 35.1 percent of their threes. The Vols have put up 402 three-pointers, which is 35 percent of their field goal attempts.

The Vols have a plus 2.8 rebounding margin and are minus 1.7 per game in turnover margin.

Tennessee won last year's matchup against Auburn by a 69-56 score and has a three-game winning streak vs. the Tigers.

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