Tigers Looking to Defend Homecourt Vs. Hogs

Tony Barbee's Tigers will be taking on Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at the Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.--If Coach Tony Barbee's team can win its SEC basketball rematch with Arkansas on Saturday, the Tigers would improve their Auburn Arena record to 14-2 this season, which would be the most homecourt victories for the team since going 14-1 at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in 1999-2000.

Tipoff time for the game is set for 3 p.m. In the first meeting the Razorbacks won 56-53 in Fayetteville on January 25th.

Auburn, which is 14-13 overall and 4-9 in the SEC, will try to bounce back from a Tuesday night road loss. The Tigers fell 63-47 to 11th-ranked Florida.

Arkansas has a quicker turnaround. The Razorbacks, who are 17-11 overall and 5-8 in the SEC, played at home on Thursday night and lost to Alabama.

Barbee noted that Auburn is not the only SEC team that has a much better record at home than on the road.

"It is hard on the road," he said. "We are going to see if we can continue to make it hard on them. You have got to take care of your homecourt in conference play. It is not just in the SEC. Look around the country. It is the same thing pretty much everywhere except for maybe the upper echelon teams will find a way to win one or two, or if you are Kentucky maybe all of them on the road."

The Auburn coach said he isn't sure how much of an edge the extra preparation time will be for his team vs. the Razorbacks. "I don't think that extra day gives a team a huge advantage, especially when you see a team for the second time around," Barbee said. "Nobody is re-inventing the wheel this time of the year."

He noted that getting the game plan ready for a rematch doesn't take as long as it does when facing a team for the first time. "It makes it easier because you have seen them one time through," he said.

Barbee said that he expects Arkansas will have a new "wrinkle" or two for the Tigers just like Auburn had for Mississippi State last Saturday when the Tigers won the rematch vs. the Bulldogs.

"We adjusted and took some things away," said Barbee, whose Tigers lost 91-88 at Mississippi State before winning 65-55 at the Auburn Arena. "We had seen them one time and knew what they were trying to get and we did a better job defending those areas," the coach said.

Auburn's leading scorer and rebounder, senior Kenny Gabriel, missed Thursday's practice after suffering back and wrist injuries at Gainesville. Sophomore guard Chris Denson hurt his knee vs. the Gators and also missed Thursday's practice.

Commenting on Gabriel, Barbee said, "He is still having some lingering effects from the spill, but I anticipate he will be ready for Saturday. He is working extremely hard in his rehab to make sure he is back."

Barbee said Denson's injury is "nothing serious" and added, "We fully expect him to be back for the game on Saturday."

Chris Denson is shown in action vs. Kentucky.

Arkansas is led by guard B.J. Young, who played high school basketball last year with Auburn signee Jordon Granger at McCluer North High. He is averaging 15.4 points per game.

"B.J. is a fantastic freshman, one of the better freshmen in the league," Barbee said. "If not for not for Anthony Davis and (Michael) Kidd-Gilchrist he is probably right there for freshman of the year. He will probably be all-conference rookie team. He is a fantastic player. He scores efficiently because of his ability to shoot the ball. He drives so well it is hard to take anything away from him. He is a big difference-maker for him."

Auburn sophomore guard Varez Ward has been playing his best basketball in recent weeks. Asked if he is seeing signs that the transfer guard is gaining confidence in his point guard role, Barbee said, "Yes, but with Varez it is give and take depending on how his leg feels that day. Until the strength comes back all of the way he is going to be like that. One day he is going to feel like he is 16 again. Another day he is going to be like me out there trying to run."

Saturday's game will be televised regionally by the SEC Network.


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