Tigers Say Rebounding A Key Vs. Rebels

A preview of Auburn's SEC Men's Basketball Tournament opener is featured from New Orleans.

New Orleans, La.--When Auburn takes the court Thursday night to play Ole Miss in the opening round of the SEC Basketball Tournament, Coach Tony Barbee said he wants his Tigers to "enjoy the moment" and not play tight.

Tipoff for the game, which will be televised regionally on the SEC Network, is set for 6:30 p.m. CST from the New Orleans Arena.

"I want the guys to play loose, I want them to play relaxed, I want them to play fun," Barbee said.

"There is no pressure on us and the biggest thing this time of the year is I don't think any coach in that three or four day window we've had from the last regular season game to this game Thursday is going to try to re-invent their whole system," the coach noted.

"You are what you are this time of the year," he added. "(Thursday's) game is for not just us, but all the games with all the matchups are going to be about who can do what they do better than their opponent can do so we're going to try to really defend and play tough.

"We're going to try to be as efficient as we can possibly be on the offensive end of the floor, and take care of the ball and not turn it over," the coach added. "And, if we can do that--those three things--then I like our chances."

Rob Chubb works on his foul shooting on Wednesday at the New Orleans Arena.

This will be the third time the Tigers have faced Ole Miss this season. In the first matchup junior guard scored 19 points as Auburn won a double-overtime 69-68 decision at the Auburn Arena.

Sophomore guard Chris Denson chipped in with 16 points that game while senior forward Kenny Gabriel added 11 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.

In the rematch Ole Miss prevailed, overcoming an 11-point lead with a 14-0 run led by Murphy Holloway, who scored 20 points and added 11 rebounds for the Rebels.

Gabriel led the Tigers in the game at Ole Miss with 15 points while Sullivan scored 10 in the 61-54 setback in a contest that wasn't decided until the closing minute.

Barbee said beating the Rebels won't be easy on Thursday night. "They are as big and as physical as any team in this league," the coach said. "Even though we matched up fairly well with them in both games this year, they were both games down to the wire so I wouldn't expect anything less."

Gabriel agreed with his coach about the Rebels. "We know that they are a real physical team," the senior said. "They like to offensive rebound so we got to keep them off the offensive boards and not let them get a second and third chance off just one shot. We've just have to rebound the ball defensively."

Sullivan said the guards will need to provide major assistance on the boards vs. Ole Miss. "I think every guard should come up with like five rebounds in this game to help the bigs out," he noted.

Auburn goes into the tournament 15-15 overall. Ole Miss has an 18-12 record.

Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said, "This team is playing well. We have won three in a row. We're trying to continue to garner momentum moving forward. We realize that if we want to play beyond this tournament, we need to win basketball games and Thursday night presents an opportunity for us to do that."

Kennedy said he isn't concerned about what his team needs to do to get into the NCAA or the NIT. He said the focus is on playing Auburn and if the Rebels win that game the focus will be squarely on No. 2 seed Tennessee, which has a bye and is awaiting the winner of the Auburn-Ole Miss game.

The Rebels will be playing without Jelan Kendrick, a 6-7 freshman forward who is averaging 5.1 points per game. He is suspended and not with the team in New Orleans. Auburn point guard Varez Ward is also suspended and not with the team.

Thursday's game with be the 124th Auburn vs. Ole Miss contest. Auburn leads the series 73-50. The Tigers are 1-1 vs. the Rebels in previous SEC Tournament matchups.


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