Tigers Look to Toughen for Ole Miss Road Trip

Auburn men's basketball coach Tony Barbee discusses what his team needs to do to improve.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee is hoping his basketball team's toughness level will be high enough to handle a physical Ole Miss team on Saturday evening in Oxford, Miss.

Barbee's Tigers are 13-11 overall and 3-7 in the Southeastern Conference after dropping their last two games. Auburn's head coach said that lack of toughness has cost his team in recent outings.

"What happened was my fault and I told them that because there are some things in practice that we backed off toughness-wise because I thought the guys had got it," Barbee said. "It is clear that we haven't got it yet.

"This time of the year is about fresh legs and fresh minds so you start to back off as a coach on some things so you can't be in here for three hours," he added.

"Some of the toughness stuff I thought we had, not only did it cost us the game the other night, it cost us the game at State (Mississippi State) and maybe a couple of the other ones lately we let slip away," Barbee said. "I told the guys that it was more on me than more on them because we hadn't been working on it, but we got back to it."

After giving his team a day off following a disappointing 68-50 loss to Alabama, the Tigers had a long, physical practice on Thursday. In addition to preparing for what Ole Miss does, the Tigers spent a good portion of the practice finishing shots while being hit and rebounding while being bumped.

The Tigers will try to get back in the win column at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford where they will tip off at 6 p.m. CST Saturday. Ole Miss will be trying to bounce back from a 70-60 loss the Rebels suffered on Thursday night at Mississippi State.

"Ole Miss is a talented team," said Barbee, whose Tigers took a 69-68 decision vs. the Rebels in double overtime when the teams played on Jan. 14th at the Auburn Arena.

"We were fortunate to beat them here," Barbee said. "We are going to have to rebound the ball better than we did in this (first) game giving up 23 offensive rebounds. It is amazing we won the game, but we played well enough defensively to put it over the top."

Barbee said his team's loss to Alabama was so disappointing that the players didn't review the game tape. Instead the Tigers decided to look ahead to the Ole Miss contest.

Auburn's basketball sins were many on Tuesday evening vs. the Tide. The Tigers turned the ball over 20 times, directly leading to 26 points for the visitors.

Another major problem on Tuesday night was the free throw shooting. Auburn made just 12 of 26 foul shots. Combine that with 41.5 percent shooting from the field and the Tigers had their worst performance since losing the SEC season opener at Vanderbilt.

Josh Langford

Injuries have been a recurring problem for Barbee's team since the preseason and that is continuing. Sophomore forward Josh Langford is expected to miss a fifth consecutive game with a concussion suffered at Arkansas.

"He is still having some lingering effects so he is going back to the doctor for some more evaluations," Barbee said of Langford, who was in the starting lineup when going down with the injury.

Frankie Sullivan shoots for the Tigers.

In the first matchup with the Rebels this season the Tigers got 19 points from Frankie Sullivan and 16 from Chris Denson. Kenny Gabriel led the Tigers in rebounds with 13 while adding 11 points.

Ole Miss was led by guard Jarvis Summers, who hit 6-8 threes on the way to scoring 22 points as he led a late comeback that sent the game into overtime.

Saturday's game at Ole Miss will be televised on Fox Sports Net.

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